Critter Corner: Southern Toads

By Dylan Till -
Public Works Environmental Manager

 The Southern Toad, Anaxyrus terrestris, is a terrestrial toad species belonging to the family Bufonidae, which are the true toads. All true toads are toothless, generally warty in appearance, and sport parotoid glands. The Southern Toad specifically is around 1.5 to 4 inches in length, and color can vary from dark brown to light brown to gray to red.

 As its name implies, the Southern Toad is native to the Southeastern United States, ranging from southern Virginia, south to Florida, and west to eastern Louisiana. In these states, Southern Toads exist mostly below the Fall Line. (In the eastern United States, the Fall Line exists between the Appalachian piedmont and the Atlantic coastal plain.) Southern Toads can be found in varied habitats, including agricultural areas, woodlots, and residential areas, as long they have a source of freshwater nearby. Southern Toads are nocturnal and spend the majority of daylight hours burrowed in loose soils or leaflitter.

The Southern Toad is not a picky eater and will feed on anything it can successfully swallow…mainly insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. As tadpoles, their diet consists mostly of aquatic vegetation and algae. Southern Toads have several ways to avoid predation, including camouflage, toxic skin secretions, and inflating their lungs to appear larger. Despite these methods, Southern Toads are preyed on heavily by several snake species, such as hognose snakes, water snakes, black racers, and indigo snakes.

As with most amphibians (cold-blooded vertebrates without scales that spend part of their lives in water and part on land), Southern Toads begin life in the water. During the breeding season, they will migrate from their normal terrestrial habitats to shallow standing water habitats. Mating is accompanied by a loud chorus of calls. Once bred, females will lay around 2,500 to 4,000 eggs. When the eggs hatch, the young are called tadpoles. Tadpoles, unlike their air breathing parents, breathe via gills (the same as fish). Tadpoles soon undergo metamorphosis, growing front and back legs, the tail shortens, and gills reduce in size as lungs grow larger. At this stage, the tadpole becomes a toadlet (froglets are the frog equivalent of this stage). Once the transition from toadlet to toad is complete, gills and tail have been completely absorbed into the body, and the now adult Southern Toad is able to live on land.

Contrary to popular belief, toads don’t cause warts if you touch them, but being picked up by humans can be harmful to toads or any other amphibians. Amphibians, like the Southern Toad, have permeable skin, and it is sensitive enough that even sunscreen, bug spray, or soap can harm them. If you choose to handle amphibians, do so with clean hands free of chemicals or soaps, and for good measure, make sure to wash your hands afterwards as well.

If you have a specific concern related to wildlife (e.g., deer, feral hogs, coyotes, or migratory birds), please report the issue by calling the Public Works Office (912-598-5506) or via SeeClickFix on TLA’s website ( You also can use TLA’s app to submit a SeeClickFix request.

This article was originally published by The Landings Association on their website.

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