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Poison Toads Found in the Northeast U.S.

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Toads have rough, dry skin covered with warts. They are squatty and fat-bodied with short legs. Although related to frogs, toads survive in drier climates and spend more time on land. Frogs live in and near water. Stronger than toads, frogs have moist smooth skin and are slender with longer legs than toads. The eastern American toad, Fowler's toad and the eastern spadefoot toad are the three species of poison toads found in the northeastern United States.

The Parotid Gland

Poisonous toads have enlarged glands below and in front of their ears and behind their eyes called parotid glands. Parotid glands secrete poison that is released when the toad is frightened, causing inflammation of the mouth and throat, irregular heartbeat, nauseousness and possible death when ingested. Pets are especially vulnerable, grabbing the toads in their mouths and swallowing the toxins. If this happens, rinse out your pet's mouth and take him to your veterinarian.

The Eastern American Toad

Eastern American toads have spotted bodies with brown, red-brown or green-gray skin and one or two warts on each dark spot. Their cream colored abdomens and chests are sprinkled with small black spots. Female eastern American toads are substantially larger than males, reaching up to four inches in length. The parotid glands do not touch the ridges behind the eyes of the American toad. Their call is a long warble lasting up to thirty seconds.

Fowler's Toad

Fowler's toads are sometimes mistaken for American toads. Fowler's toads reach up to three inches in length. Similar in color, they have three or more warts on each dark spot, with chests and abdomens that are white. The parotid glands touch the ridges behind the Fowler's toad's eyes. Males are smaller than females. The Fowler's call is low-pitched and sounds similar to a sheep bleating. American and Fowler's toads occasionally hybridize in habitats suitable to both species.

The Eastern Spadefoot Toad

Eastern spadefoot toads are tan to yellow-brown with tiny warts and smoother skin. Spade-like growths on each rear foot are used for digging. They have bright yellow eyes with verticle pupils. Numerous people suffer allergic reactions such as sneezing, red eyes and wheezing after touching a spadefoot toad. These toads prefer a drier habitat, spending most of their lives underground. After heavy rains they congregate to breed in fishless waters such as puddles and roadside ditches.