Creature Feature: American Toad

American Toad

Anaxyrus americanus  (formerly Bufo americanus)

Reptiles Alive Name: Tony & Walkertoad-300x239

Hissstory: Tony was found on RA Wildlife Educator Tony’s driveway in May of 2009.  Walker was found in the RA tortoise yard in August of 2010.

RA Diet: Meal worms, crickets, and earthworms.

Natural Diet: Insects and small animals including baby snakes and other frogs.

Range: The northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States north into Canada.  American toads are native to the Washington DC area.

Habitat: Toads can be found nearly anywhere there is shallow water in which to breed including suburban and urban parks, yards, and gardens.

Size: On average. American toads grow  2-3.5 inches, however, the largest on record was 4 and 3/8 inches.

Lifespan: Can live up to ten years.

Reproduction: Toads breed March-July. Females choose the males with the best song.   She then lays the eggs in long spiraling strands in vernal pools and roadside ditches.

Conservation: If you have a toad living in yard, consider yourself lucky!  Toads provide pest control by eating a huge amount of insects daily. One American toad can eat up to 1,000 insects every day!!  Protect toads you find and provide shelter for toads in your yard to encourage them to stay.

Cool Facts: You can’t get warts from touching a toad – but you can get poisoned!  The warts on a toad’s body are actually poison glands.  When a toad feels threatened, thick sticky white poison will ooze out of the warts.  The poison isn’t strong enough to seriously hurt a human – but if you eat a toad, you will probably get a bad stomachache.  So, don’t eat toads!

Creature Feature: Crested Gecko

Crested Gecko (aka Eyelash Gecko)

Rhacodactylus ciliatus

Reptiles Alive Name: Rhacodactylus (aka Rhacky)crestedgecko30int

Hissstory: Rhacky came to us as an unwanted pet in July 2010.

RA Diet: Crickets and fruit.

Natural Diet: Insects and other invertebrates plus fruit and nectar.

Range: New Caledonia.

Habitat: Cool and humid tropical lowland rain forest from the understory to the canopy.

Size: 6-7 inches long.

Lifespan: 10-20 years.

Reproduction: Females lay 1 or 2 eggs which hatch in about 2 months.

Conservation: Crested gecko habitat is threatened by: deforestation, nickel mining, and the introduction of exotic predators.  Most of the crested geckos available for sale as pets in the United States have been captive bred.

Cool Facts: Crested geckos were first discovered in 1866, but were later thought to be extinct.  However, in 1994, two herpetologists on expeditions to New Caledonia “rediscovered” the geckos.

Exploring Myakka River State Park

Located nine miles east of Sarasota FL, Myakka River State Park is one of the oldest and largest Florida state parks and protects one of the state´s most diverse natural areas.  On April 19, my Dad and I headed out for a day of hiking and picnicking with the hope of seeing a few cool Florida herp species.

We were in luck!  Wildlife was everywhere at this beautiful park.  At the picnic grounds, however, it was obvious that a few people had broken the rules against feeding wildlife because we were mobbed by cunning gray squirrels and even vultures as we enjoyed our delicious chips and sammies.

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Black Vulture at the Picnic!

Squirrels and vultures were not the only non-herps we saw that day however.  A Florida invader made his presence known as Dad and I hiked through the jungle.

Next, we found an animal that is native to both Florida and Virginia.

Florida’s most famous herp was abundant in the lakes and ponds in the park.

We also saw tons of anoles – mostly Cuban anoles which are an introduced species that has been displacing the naive Carolina anole from Florida.

After spending time hiking around the forest floor, it was time to head up, up, up into the canopy. We took a walk through the treetops and then climbed a 74-foot tower for an eagle’s-eye view of natural Floridian hammocks and wetlands.

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Dad and Caroline at the top of Florida

Whew, after all the hiking and climbing, we were both pretty tired. So we headed back to the house for some relaxing. And I found one more animal.

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Caroline and Catfish

For more information on visiting Myakka Lake State Park, visithttp://www.floridastateparks.org/myakkariver/default.cfm

Creature Feature: White Lined Gecko

White Lined Gecko (aka Skunk Gecko)

Gekko vittatus

whitelinedgecko2-187x300

Pilau the White Lined Gecko

Reptiles Alive Name: Pilau

Hissstory: Pilau was an unwanted pet left at a nature center.  The nature center sent Pilau to us in April 2010.

RA Diet: Crickets.

Natural Diet: Insects and other small invertebrates.

Range: India, Indonesia (Java, Timor), New Guinea, Oceania;Belau, Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Islands, Rennell;Bellona, Santa Cruz Islands.

Habitat: The canopy and understory of tropical rain forests.

Size: 5-8 inches long, including the tail.

Lifespan: Probably 10-20 years.

Reproduction: Females lay 1-2 eggs at a time by “gluing” them to surfaces such as leaf stalks.  The eggs hatch in 3-6 months.

Conservation: Most of the white lined geckos for sale in the United States have been collected in the wild and imported.  Most geckos (and other wild animals) do not survive this process.  The few that do survive to be sold as a pet are usually very ill.  If you are thinking of getting a gecko as a pet, we recommend you adopt from an animal rescue organization or purchase from a legitimate breeder.

Cool Facts: Like all “true” geckos, white lined geckos have microscopic scales in the shape of hooks on the bottom of their feet. These scales grab on to microscopic imperfections found on every surface. This enables them to walk vertically or even upside down on almost any surface! Scientists are studying gecko feet in order to develop super strong tape, and maybe even gloves and shoes you could wear to walk up a wall. Just like Spider-man – or GECKO MAN!