How to Keep a Wild Toad as a Pet
Is It Legal to Keep Wild Toads as Pets?
If you wish to keep a wild toad for a pet, you have to find out first whether you can actually do so legally. Since laws vary from country to country and state to state, it is impossible to give a simple answer here. However, finding toads that can legally be taken from the wild and be kept as pets should not be too difficult wherever you live. Even Massachusetts, a state that has very strict laws about the keeping of wild animals, allows American toads and Fowler's toads to be kept as pets, as long as you limit yourself to two individuals.
Which wild toads are legal to own as pets?
Before you decide to keep that toad you found in your back yard or on a camping trip, you must make sure that you identify its species. For example, many states outlaw the keeping of the Colorado River toad, b alvinius, because of the psychoactive substances these toads synthesise. In the UK, the common toad Bufo buff is fine for a pet but the natterjack toad, Epidalea calamita, is strictly protected. However, they are now so rare that's highly unlikely that you will find one in your garden.
Where to Find Wild Toads
Although they are amphibians, toads are less closely associated with bodies of water than frogs. They will often only go near water to breed. Hence it is quite usual to find wild toads in your back yard or in a park. The most likely type you will find is the common American toad, Bufo americanus, if you are in the US, or the common toad, Bufo buff, if you are in Europe.
Murphy's law dictates that even if you were tripping over toads in your back yard on a daily basis, now that you are actually looking, you will not be able to find one. Like most amphibians, they like to hide, and you might need to look under some stones or leaf litter. However, I am sure that with a little bit of perseverance you will be able to locate one. It is actually better to find a juvenile, which is more likely to adapt quickly to a life in captivity than an adult toad.
Best time to find a toad:
The best times to look for toads is in the spring after heavy rains, although you can probably locate them in the summer and fall. Toads hibernate in winter so it is unlikely that you will come across one when it gets really cold and the ground freezes.
If you find toad eggs, you might want to read Caring for Tadpoles From Egg to Froglet.
What Do Toads Eat?
Toads are ravenous insectivores and will readily consume any invertebrate that fits into their mouths. Although there might be a temptation to collect slugs and worms from outside to feed your pet amphibian, there is always a danger of introducing diseases or pesticides. In the end, it might be more convenient to obtain crickets and other feeder insects bred specifically for amphibian- and reptile-keepers.
In general, the same principles apply as when feeding frogs: Crickets will probably form the bulk of your toad's diet. The crickets should be gut-loaded on carrots and other fruits and vegetables before putting them into the terrarium. You should also use a calcium and vitamin D supplement to ensure all your toad's mineral needs are met.
What to feed your pet toad:
- Live crickets (preferably gut-loaded and dusted with calcium and vitamins). Most pet stores stock these.
- Live mealworms or wax worms (also available at pet stores).
- Depending on what type of toad you have, it might eat fruits and vegetables (cut into small pieces). But all toads prefer to eat live insects.
How much space does a toad need?
Most toads are quite sedentary, spending a lot of their time burrowed in soil or hiding under a stone. Therefore, they do not need a particularly big enclosure to live in. If you are keeping one of the common Bufo toads than a tank 24"x12"x12" should be sufficient for one individual or a pair.
What type of enclosure is best?
They need to be kept in a terrarium that will keep their surroundings moist but allow good ventilation, hence a small fish tank is an acceptable enclosure but it must be fitted with a screen top. To prevent the toad from escaping, make sure the top is tightly fitted to the tank.
What else does a toad need in its environment?
Most of the furnishings required for keeping toads are similar to those for small or medium-sized terrestrial frogs. Toads like to burrow in soil or leaf litter, so give them something they can dig in for substrate.
What type of substrate works best?
- There is quite a lot of controversy about using the soil from the location you took the toad from (as opposed to buying specialised amphibian substrates, such as coconut-husk based eco earth, etc.).
- The danger with collecting soil from outside to use in amphibian enclosures is that it may be contaminated with harmful pesticides or fertilisers. However, if your back yard or park has a thriving toad population, chances are the soil there is safe.
- It is always safest to buy commercially produced substrates, however, and they are not expensive.
- Avoid using gravel or other substrates which your toad might swallow while hunting and which could cause intestinal impaction.
Give your toad a place to hide.
You should provide your toad with hiding places in the form of pieces of bark, branches, or rocks. You could either collect these from the location where you caught your toad or buy some of the commercially produced reptile hides and caves.
Do Toads Like Water?
All amphibians must have constant access to fresh water. Like frogs, toads do not actually drink water, but absorb it through their skins.
- Make sure they can easily get into and out of the bowl.
- The water must be changed daily to prevent bacterial contamination which would cause your pet to become ill.
- The water must be dechlorinated—tap water could poison them.
- Either leave the water standing for 24 hours, preferably with an airstone bubbling through it, or use a water dechlorinator (the same type used for aquarium fish).
Does a toad need to swim in water?
A toad does not need to swim, but it might like a soak. All that they require is a shallow bowl; they are not good swimmers.
A Toad's Temperature and Humidity Requirements
- Most true toads native to Europe and the United States prefer cooler temperatures.
- They will generally spend their days burrowed in soil or leaf litter and emerge at night when the temperatures are cooler.
- They usually do well with a daytime temperature between 60-70 F.
- Because of their warty skins, toads need lower ambient humidity than frogs and will get enough moisture from soaking in their water bowls at nights. However, if your house is particularly dry, like if you use central heating in winter, you might want to increase the humidity in the enclosure by spraying it with clean, dechlorinated water a few times a week.
Do I need to heat my toad's enclosure?
In general, you will not need any special heating or lighting equipment for your enclosure, unless you are keeping it in an unheated room in winter where temperatures fall very low.
If your house is particularly dry, you might want to increase the humidity in the enclosure by spraying it with clean, dechlorinated water a few times a week.
Does taking wild animals for pets appeal to you?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.