Saturday, November 17, 2007

Not a toad prince

It's big and brown, really big. Big enough to look like it could do damage if it ran into you and it is ugly as well. They are also making life tough for those who live in South and Central Florida these days.

They came from the Amazon basin and have spread into central America and now, they have been spotted in some of the warmer southern states in the U S. In Florida, they have moved into the Keys as well as the Tampa Bay area and South Florida. The regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Lakeland FL receives two or three calls a month about them they state.

The creatures are easily recognizable are the Bufos marinus or more commonly known as the marine toad or the giant toad. They have easily adapted to life in urban Florida and can often be seen hopping along sidewalks. They are nocternal, prefering to hide during the day under fallen trees, debris, leaves or even burrow into loose soil. They will eat most anything from plants and insects to dog and cat food. They are sensitive to the cold though, prefering to breed in the spring and early fall.

It isn't their size or ugliness though that has officials offering ways to eradicate them. The Bofus has two large skin glands that emit a toxic substance that is their defense from predators. It is also highly toxic to family pets, toxic enough to kill dogs and cats and irrate human skin and eyes.

Officials do warn though that when disposing of any suspected giant toads, that a person check to make sure that it is over 4 inches long. Not because there is a size limit on bagging them but because the smaller Bufo terrestris, an indigenous and beneficial species, looks very much like the giant toad.

Wildlife experts do suggest that anyone wishing to rid their yard of a giant toad use gloves and a plastic bag to avoid touching it. They have even suggested their choices as the best methods........ pop it in the freezer for a couple of days or just take away the chance of accidently trying to microwave it for dinner later by smacking it with a shovel. I can only imagine the mess, smacking a toad that large would leave on the sidewalk.


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