It’s been a while since we visited Fakename’s Animal Planet, which is populated by some of the more bizarre creatures on Planet Earth. Recently a visitor from the UK commented on my post about Muscovy ducks, and re-reading that post, I realized that I had promised to discuss Bufo Marinus. Its common names include Giant Toad, Cane Toad, and Marine Toad. “Cane Toad” comes from its success at eating sugar cane beetles. Native to Central and South America, it’s been introduced virtually everywhere sugar cane is grown. This falls into the category of “Be careful what you wish for”. (See: nutria; kudzu.) They also eat birds, other frogs, rodents, and small children left unattended. “Marine Toad” came from the mistaken idea that they live in water as well as on land. In fact, besides drinking water, the only time they venture into it is to lay eggs–8,000 to 25, 000 at a time. Wow! Going into labor must be quite a bitch for the female Bufo.
So technically, “Giant Toad” is the most accurate of its common names. To illustrate that accuracy, consider this photo for perspective:
I first encountered this creature on the pages of the Palm Beach Post, which ran an article about Bufo no doubt as a public service to Florida newbies such as myself. Be on the lookout, it said. Because on top of their distinct unattractiveness and intimidating size, they are poisonous. They can kill dogs. Oh great, I said. Not only do I have alligators in the pond behind my house, a family of rats living in my attic, and mosquitoes the size of Cessna 150’s, now I have to worry about giant poisonous toads? Welcome to Florida, Fakename.
As luck would have it, no more than a week later at around dusk, my two dogs erupted into a big racket which, translated, meant, “We’ve cornered something!” “Cornered” was not exactly the right word. There in the back yard, squarely and unflinchingly facing the two dogs, was a noble member of the Bufo species. I recognized it from its picture in the newspaper. Um, “Shoo!” I said. It either couldn’t hear me over the din the dogs were making, or it didn’t speak English. In hindsight, I’m glad it didn’t run. I mean hop. Because then the dogs would surely have chased it, with possibly lethal results.
I wasn’t about to touch it, since it’s the skin that is toxic. They have glands which secrete a poison called Bufotoxin, one component of which is Bufotenin, which is hallucinogenic. I mention this only in case you would like to engage in the practice of toad licking. So I came up with Plan B, which was first to get the dogs inside the house. Then to encourage Bufo to move, with the aid of say, a broom. I did not have to ask it twice. Once the dogs were inside, in fact, it wasted no time in trying to hop its way out of Dodge. I did have to open the back gate for it, since it was not quite yet tall enough to unlatch it on its own.
You may be asking yourself, why didn’t Fakename kill it? My reply is, with what? No seriously, Fakename does a limited amount of killing. Her killing is confined to very small univited creatures inside the house, like tiny spiders. If you live outside and stay there, Fakename is perfectly happy to let you. Plus toads, even poisonous ones, are one of the best pest control systems around. I mean, I personally could not bring myself to eat a Cessna 150, but Bufos love them.