Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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The Toad
Nature Bulletin No. 158   June 5, 1948
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

The toad, distinguished by its wide heavy body, dry warty skin and a large kidney-shaped gland on each shoulder, is a most interesting and valuable animal. There are many superstitions about this gentle harmless amphibian so loathed by many people. It is not evil or venomous; it does not "rain down" from the sky; it cannot exist for centuries sealed in the heart of a tree or solid rock; it does not cause warts.

From those two big glands and from the "warts", which are also glands, a toad can secrete a milky fluid which is harmless to man but which makes it distasteful to most animals. However, they are eaten by most large snakes and by many hawks, owls, herons and bitterns. Because its food is chiefly insects and their larvae, of which it consumes great quantities, the toad is a valuable friend to the farmer and gardener even though it also eats spiders and earthworms.

In spring, toads emerge from the ground, where they hibernate over the winter, and travel to ponds, marshes and the quiet backwaters of streams. There the males sing their love songs, sitting half submerged with their throats swelled-out like huge bubbles. The song of the common American toad is a high-pitched musical trill; that of its relative, Fowler's toad, is a weird nasal squawk.

There in the water they mate and lay their eggs -- long strings of transparent jelly enclosing the little black eggs closely spaced in single file. A string may be from 20 to 72 feet long and a single female may lay from 2,000 to 20,000 eggs. In a few days they develop into tiny tadpoles. These grow and, like frog tadpoles but black in color, each gradually absorbs its gills and tail, and develop lungs, legs and feet. Late in summer, thousands of them come out on land, where they spend the rest of their lives except at mating season.

Because toads were supposed to sit on them, poisonous mushrooms were called "toadstools".

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