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How does human handling effect frogs and toads?

Printed From: Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK
Category: Herpetofauna Native to the UK
Forum Name: Common Toad
Forum Description: Forum for all issues concerning Bufo bufo
Printed Date: 07 Apr 2020 at 5:56pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.06 -

Topic: How does human handling effect frogs and toads?
Posted By: Saxicolous
Subject: How does human handling effect frogs and toads?
Date Posted: 11 Oct 2013 at 5:15pm

A few weeks back I found a small baby toad at a busy retail park motionless in the sun outside a store entrance.  Because there was no safe area to put it I decided to take it home where there’s woodland and carried it for 20-25 minutes.  It didn’t look the picture of health when I found it but it became lively in my hand and acted normal but by the time I’d gotten home it looked dreadful and had it’s mouth open wide and was floppy and unresponsive.  I figured it had overheated or was lacking oxygen from being in my partially closed warm hands so long, I wasn’t quite sure if it was dead or not so I put it in my pond in case it was still alive for it to cool down and rehydrate.  A couple of hours later I moved it from the pond to a well-covered damp flowerbed and hid it under leaves, by that time it’s mouth had closed but it still didn’t move and I thought it was dead.  24 hours later I checked on it and it was indeed alive still but was acting abnormal, it was alert and lively but appeared brain damaged as it used its back legs abnormally and kept toppling upside down and was unable to right itself.  Again it had its mouth wide open.  After another 24 hours it was dead.


Do you think the actual cause of death was from over-heating in my hand?  Or would it have been more likely from toxins on human skin?  I’ve heard human skin can be poisonous to frogs and toads but always thought it was a myth, is it scientifically proven that handling can harm amphibians and what are the symptoms?  Also can human contact with them cause death?  Does anyone know?

Posted By: will
Date Posted: 12 Oct 2013 at 5:15pm
Hi, I don't think you should beat yourself up about the toad; it sounds like it was suffering from something at the start.  Juvenile amphibians are delicate at the best of times, and I don't think human skin can be 'poisonous' to frogs and toads - what is true is that you should handle them as rarely as possible in case of transferring chytrid fungus etc from one amphibian to another, and if possible with moist hands as the dryness of our skin could damage their delicate and permeable skins.  Hope that helps, Will

Posted By: MancD
Date Posted: 17 Oct 2013 at 8:11am

Agree with Will, sounds like it was suffering from something when you found it. Always best to avoid placing amphibians found in terrestrial habitats into ponds as they may well have been out of the water for months and their bodies will have become adapted to living terrestrially. It may not have appreciated being dunked in a pond!

More important is to avoid moving amphibians around. If it was suffering from disease, you may have risked spreading disease from the population the toad was from to any population using your garden. Given that the little blighter only held out for 48 hours it is unlikely that this happened, but worth keeping your eyes peeled for any amphibians in your garden with similar ailments.

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