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Nature Notes: Toads love trilling, hanging out in Iowa yards

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By Marion and Rich Patterson, correspondents

Toads herald spring’s arrival with lusty evening trilling. Common and intriguing, they enjoy living in suburban yards as well as woodlands and wetlands.

Many toad species inhabit the world but the common Iowa species is the Eastern Toad. It ranges from about Nebraska east to the Atlantic and from southern states north to nearly Hudson’s Bay.

Although amphibious, toads spend much of their lives away from ponds. A shady, damp place to live and plenty of insects and other invertebrates to eat suit their needs. Toads often spend the day hiding in cool garages, under rotting logs and in secluded garden spots. Come evening, they hop around seeking tasty bug meals.

Each spring toads move to ponds, wet road ditches and big puddles to serenade the night with their loud trilling. Females lay two strings of eggs in the water that hatch into tadpoles within two weeks. The warmer the weather, the sooner the eggs hatch. Toad tadpoles are easy to recognize. They are tiny, black, and have bodies much larger than their thin tail. Often hundreds swarm in a small pool. In less than two months they change into mini toads that hop far and wide seeking a new place to live. They’ll eventually grow to about 3 inches long.

Although many animals enjoy a frog meal, few eat toads because they taste bad. When bothered, toads often emit a foul tasting liquid that makes a hungry dog or raccoon immediately drop the animal unhurt. Probably their main predator is the hog nosed snake, which relishes a toad meal.

Most people like toads and many gardeners create damp quiet places in their gardens for them to take shelter during the day and forage for pesky insects come nightfall.

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