The toad , or crapaud to give it its Jersey-French name, is common in Jersey but doesn’t occur in the other Channel Islands. It is easily distinguished from a frog by its warty skin and the fact that it crawls rather than hops. In early spring toads move from their hibernation sites to their breeding ponds. These are often the same ponds they were tadpoles in. They go to great lengths to get to the ponds , crawling over walls and other obstacles and crossing roads where many are killed. The males arrive at the ponds first and croak to attract the females.
There are many more males than females so there is great competition to get a female. Sometimes several males cling onto one poor female in a ball of toads and the female may even drown as a result. The eggs are laid in strings 7 – 10 feet long around the stems of water plants. These hatch into tadpoles which develop into toadlets in 10 – 16 weeks depending on the weather. Only about one in twenty of the eggs will survive to become an adult toad. Males become ready to breed at 3 years and females a year later.
The adults leave the ponds after the eggs are laid and spend the summer alone. They feed at night on slugs, insects and other small animals which they catch with their long sticky tongues. In late autumn they hibernate under logs or in holes in walls, sometimes in groups. They can live for 20 years in captivity but 10 years is more usual in the wild.
They have poison glands on their backs which deter predators and the tadpoles are poisonous too.