One of the oddest amphibians you may encounter in your backyard is the eastern narrow-mouthed toad (Gastrophyne carolinensis).
This small critter (1 – 1.25” long) is not a true frog, as it does not have webbed feet. However, it doesn’t have warts (paratoid glands) that are characteristic of toads. It is in a family all to itself.
Heavy rain showers during the breeding season can trigger breeding. During such times, males and females congregate in small bodies of water such as puddles, roadside ditches, and deep wheel ruts.
Males call to attract females. Their calls are distinctive sounding much like a loud electronic buzzer (weeeeeee) that can last up to four seconds. Males often call with only the tip of their heads protruding above the water.
NARROW-MOUTHED-TOAD–Photo credit: Angela Dupree
With the exception of the extreme northeast corner of the state, this strange amphibian ranges across all of Georgia. In spite of this, it is an animal that Georgians rarely see. This is largely due to its habits. Except during the mating season, which can extend from April to October, this toad-like amphibian lives beneath the surface of the ground in burrows that up to 20 inches in length.
The narrow-mouthed toad prefers to excavate its burrow in loamy and sandy soils. Here it hunts its prey. Some 75% of its diet consists of termites and ants. It also dines on beetles and other invertebrates.
You are most likely to find one around your home beneath boards left on the ground, and rocks. Recently my daughter found one hiding beneath a flowerpot. You have the best chance of finding a narrow-mouthed toad after heavy rains.
The narrow-mouthed toad secrets a mildly toxic substance helps ward off predators. However, should you handle one of these strange critters, make sure you thoroughly wash your hands before touching your mouth or eyes. If you do not heed this advice, you may experience a burning sensation that can last an hour or more.