A Toadal Mystery

Ok, I need help solving this mystery.

As I was walking across a large concrete parking lot this weekend, I looked down and saw this:


It’s clearly the imprint of a Woodhouse’s toad in concrete.  (Yes, I’m guessing on the Woodhouse’s part of that identification, but it’s a very good bet.)

The bigger question is, “How the heck did this happen??”

The print was more than 50 feet into the concrete from any non-concrete surface.  It was also more than a couple feet from the nearest seam between concrete sections.  I have several hypotheses.  If you’re going to disparage any of them, you’d better give me a better one.

Hypothesis A: A great blue heron or other large bird caught a Woodhouse’s toad in a wetland near town and was carrying it back to its nest as food for its young.  As the bird flew over the church parking lot, which was in the process of being poured, it was distracted by the sight of the rotating tub of a concrete truck and accidentally dropped the toad into the soft concrete of a section that had just been smoothed.  After the concrete dried, the deceased toad eventually decomposed or was carried away by a suprised scavenger.

Hypothesis B:  An adventurous toad living in an airplane hanger at the tiny airport north of town nestled itself into some nook or cranny in a small airplane before it took off.  As the plane lifted itself into the air, the poor toad, clinging to the plane with its white-knuckled front feet and flapping like a flag in the wind, finally lost its grip and tumbled several thousand feet into concrete that was nearly, but not completely cured.

Hypothesis C:  Jimmy, the son of Greg the concrete guy, had a pet toad named Harvey.  One night, Greg came home from a long hard day and dropped his jacket on the floor near the front door before shuffling off to a hot shower.  Later that night, Harvey hopped into the pocket of that jacket and decided it was a good place to nap.  Early the next morning, Greg hopped out of bed, refreshed and ready to make some more progress on the parking lot, grabbed his jacket and strode out the door to his truck.  Harvey, still asleep, remained in the jacket pocket.  About mid-morning, as Greg stretched his arm far across the patch of concrete he was smoothing, Harvey felt squeezed by the pocket, squirmed out, and plopped into the concrete.  A few moments later, Greg, who never really cared for Harvey anyway, spotted the toad glaring balefully at him from where he was stuck in wet concrete.  Greg considered his options momentarily before simply turning away to work on the next section of concrete.  The next day, Jimmy, after a long fruitless search of the house for his favorite pet, was presented by Greg with a black lab puppy, which cheered him up considerably.  Meanwhile, Harvey made his escape from the concrete after it dried, and hopped off into a nearby cornfield where he met the love of his life (several of them, actually).

That’s the best I can do.  Any better ideas?

This entry was posted in Prairie Animals, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography and tagged , , , by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

24 thoughts on “A Toadal Mystery

  1. I’m thinking that toad went off to compete in the Frog Jumping Contest of Calaveras County (they have a toad division).

  2. The toad could have been in the sand when the concrete batch was mixed and delivered and deposited on the project

  3. A tornado passed miles away and pulled it up high into the sky. After many terrifying minutes of being airborne and in wind, rain, and lightning, it plummeted down ker-splat into the freshly poured soft concrete.

  4. I think we are seeing natural selection at work! This is a rare example where we are witnessing the development of a new species. A toad laid its eggs in a puddle that got covered in concrete. One toad egg, however, had several mutations (probably because the mother was exposed to high levels of carcinogenic pollution) which enabled the tadpole to develop using the moisture from the curing cement. By the the time it reached the surface of the cement it had completed is metamorphosis into a toad. In 2016, I’m sure this genetic trait will be a huge advantage, and soon all newly poured cement will have this characteristic toad imprint. I recommend naming this new species Bufo cementus… :)

  5. Billy, walking home from school, spies a toad.
    “I wonder how far I can throw this toad out into that wet concrete?”, wonders Billy.
    Billy gives it a mighty arcing heave and has his answer . . .
    about 50 feet.

  6. I’m guessing that it got stirred up with all the dirt work. While milling around the toad decides to cross the wet concrete. Then “Joe Concrete Worker”, looking for something to make the day a little more interesting, decides to tamps him right in.

  7. It was an Amazon drone-delivery gone wrong. The drone was carrying various gardening and yard-art items and the decorative toadie slipped out of its grasp. An Amazon representative stealthily retrieved it during the night, hoping to avoid making a bad impression.

  8. Honestly, I have no idea what transpired, but you make this such fun — and, actually, I think it’s a scientific question, so I keep asking myself — what really happened here???

  9. Option D. A lovely maiden was out walking in the great kingdom of God, when lo…in a flurry of sparkles and fairy dust toad appears and whispers sweet nothings to her…thinking she may have found her true love, and listening very intently to his whispers: i will cook if only you’ll kiss me; i’ll do dishes if only you’ll kiss me; i’ll always put the seat down and replace the soft papery roll if you’ll only kiss me.
    Bam! The lovely maiden knew she was being duped and flung the toad far out of the lovely kingdom, and she lived happily ever after.

  10. Love all the comments. I think A is a good bet, but as you say it is too practical. It could be the boy between 12 and 40. I do love the princess one also. People have such great imaginations!!

  11. The toad hopped onto the concrete and a mean spirited contractor simply smacked him with long handled smoothing tool and worked him into the finished product. The toad would have been uniformly grey and appeared as large, if irregularly shaped, piece of aggregate until he decomposed. This is how fossils and fossil imprints get made. Always look for simplest solution.

  12. Hilarious! Not sure which one I like most but the title is a competitor.

    Thank you!

    Allie Rath | Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist
    Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever | NRCS Service Center 328 NE 14th St. | Abilene, KS 67410
    p. (785) 263-1351 ext. 335 | m. (319) 330-6015 | arath@pheasantsforever.org | allie.rath@ks.usda.gov
    http://www.KansasPFQF.orghttp://www.PheasantsForever.orghttp://www.QuailForever.org ♦ PF Blog ♦ On The Wing

  13. Pingback: Best of 2016 – Stories and Photos From This Year | The Prairie Ecologist


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