What a great day at the office.

KristinsToad imagejpeg_1I came upon this toad in a Brookfield backyard last October.  We snapped its picture and quickly returned it where we found it, under the garden fence, among some leaf litter.

Toads are amphibians. This mean they are cold blooded and cannot generate their own body heat. They depend on their environment to keep them warm or cool.

I knew it was a toad because it had warty skin and it had a short hop or walk, which made it easier to catch.  Frogs have longer legs used for swimming and can leap farther. It is either an American Toad or a Fowlers Toad.  I’m leaning toward the American toad because of the black warts.

According to Lincoln Park Zoo’s web site,” American Toads are found widely throughout the eastern half of the United States and Canada, ranging from Quebec to Alabama.  American toads occupy a wide range of habitats including forests, farms and even backyards.  Eggs and tadpoles require freshwater ponds and pools in which to grow.”

Nature in our Neighborhood 017
I woke this toad from a winter sleep, spring 2012 during a spring clean up job.

American toads are most often seen and heard in the spring when they are breeding.  Otherwise they live solitary lives. I found this guy or gal in the fall most likely looking for a new place to live or hibernate.  Hibernation takes place in the winter by burrowing deep in the soil below the frost line.

Because they help keep the pest population down in your property naturally, this makes them a health benefit to your garden. Their top choices on the backyard menu are insects and slugs.  This includes pesky mosquitoes and flies which can carry disease.

You can attract toads and frogs to your yard by providing a shelter or toad abode.  A small clay pot, half buried under leaf mulch in the shade, near a water source is ideal. The opening of the abode should be big enough to fit a toad or frog.

Toads and frogs breathe and drink through their skin. This leaves them vulnerable to environmental toxins like synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides used in lawn care.  Keeping these types of poisons off your property is a must if you want to attract and keep these creatures living in your garden.

There is a decline in amphibian populations around the world. Disease, pollution and chemicals, habitat destruction and climate change are a few potential causes for this problem.

Citizen scientist programs can be found throughout the United States. They are dedicated to frog and toad monitoring, which can help you understand just how ‘in trouble’ our world amphibian population has become.

In Illinois, contact The Nature Conservancy at nature.org and see how you can help.