Long Island’s Toad-ally Misunderstood Amphibians

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Fowler’s toads aplenty are found on Fire Island.

We Long Islanders have many options on how to spend our leisure time, with a staggering amount of concerts, museums, exhibits and attractions close by. There are so many that sometimes the natural beauty surrounding us takes a back seat.

Not for me, though. I go out of my way to find these natural places and one of my favorites is Fire Island, a small wisp of land with unique habitats including dunes, marshes and sunken forests. Wildlife abounds here, but there is one small misunderstood inhabitant: the toad.

This remarkable amphibian is often mistaken for a frog, which is a close cousin, but they are completely different animals. Toads are found across America but on Fire Island there is only one species: Fowler’s toad. As nocturnal animals, they are seen less often than shorebirds or white-tailed deer, but they are here in greater numbers.

Toads, like frogs, start life in pools of fresh water. In the spring, massive amounts of eggs are deposited in ponds, lakes and any standing pool of water. There toads undergo remarkable metamorphosis, transforming from egg to tadpole and on to adulthood in one summer.

Amphibians need moisture to survive as summer temperatures would simply dry them up. Their frog cousins stay in or near the body of water they were born in, but toads get out of the heat of day by digging themselves into the earth where it is cooler and moist. At night they emerge hungry to dine on insects, making them welcome neighbors on our buggy barrier island.

In spite of their ability to terrify grown men and women, toads can’t harm people. Their skin is dry and warty but contrary to old wives’ tales, they do not spread warts to humans. Unlike their frog cousins, toads have no teeth so they can’t bite. And although they are often included in a “witches’ brew,” toads have no magical powers.

So although I do feel bad that I inadvertently cleared out a picnic table of adults one night by placing three little toads in between the wine glasses, I swear I was only trying to raise awareness of this marvelous little animal.

My suggestion: On the next warm rainy evening this summer, put down the remote and take the kids outside. You may be toadally surprised at the nightlife right in your own neighborhood.

Jungle Bob’s Reptile World is located at 984 Middle Country Rd. in Selden. They can be reached at junglebobsreptileworld.com or 631-737-6474.