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March 2010 cover image 12 Great State Park Walks

Wild Thing: A Toad Above the Rest

Texas toad garners top state honors, thanks to students.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

Students at Danbury Elementary School south of Houston can claim a unique accomplishment: They helped craft legislation in 2009 that designated the chubby Texas toad as our state amphibian.

“We worked with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and legislators,” explains librarian Ace Filipp. “First, fourth-graders researched five native amphibians and campaigned for their favorites. Then they held a campus election. The Texas toad won!” Within a few months, the species — recognized as one of the state’s most common and abundant toads — nabbed the thumb’s-up from the 81st Legislature. No wonder why! Texas tough and highly adaptable, Bufo speciosus occurs across the western two-thirds of the state and into Mexico, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

Photo by Ross Nussbaumer

Gray or brownish in color, darkly splotched and warty, Texas toads — which measure an average of 3 inches long — lack a back stripe found on similar species like the Gulf Coast toad. Avid burrowers, they prefer loose, sandy soils found in grasslands and open woods. To stay moist, Texas toads burrow into mud, slip under rocks or hide in animal dens. At night, they venture out to feed on beetles, flies and other insects.

What did Danbury students find most interesting about their new state amphibian? “If a dog or other animal tries to eat a Texas toad, it will secrete a bad-tasting mucus,” Filipp says. “They thought that was pretty cool!” 

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