Critter Spotlight: Wynken, Blynken, and Nod!

Let’s hop to it and meet Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, our beloved California Toads that reside in Splash’s Critterville room, where we house our rescued animal ambassadors that help us with our education programs.

You might be saying to yourself, “Hey! I thought they were called Western Toads!”  Well, you’re right! They are Western Toads; however, that species was split into two distinct subspecies, and the one we have here, in most of California, is known as the California Toad.

If you’re wondering why our toads’ names sound familiar, they’re from the children’s poem entitled “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,” written by Eugene Field back in 1889. Blynken came to Splash in 2017, when a staff member’s little sister found the toad hopping through their garden. As they examined the little toad, it was obvious that it had recently sustained a severe injury that resulted in the loss of its right eye–hence, the name, “Blynken.”

In the spring of 2020, while working in a maintenance hole, a worker with AT&T found a couple of toads in the hole! He couldn’t just leave them there, so he took them home to his kids and they kept the toads as pets for several months. They took very good care of the toads, but it got too expensive for them to buy crickets to satisfy the hungry toads’ appetites. So, the family said goodbye to the toads and gave them to the Northern California Herpetological Society. Then Splash adopted them in December of 2020. They completed our toad trio as Wynken and Nod.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod live in a bioactive terrarium, with soil as the substrate. The concept of a bioactive terrarium is to create a self-sustaining ecosystem where the toads live alongside soil microorganisms that gobble up the toad waste and help keep the soil clean! The toads are fed earthworms, waxworms, crickets, and even Dubia roaches/ They’ll even eat right out of your hand! Although, Blynken’s aim is a little off, due to the missing eye.

We don’t handle the toads very often. Is that because we don’t want to get warts?  Nope. You can’t get warts from toads. However, it’s important to note that California Toads are poisonous! The big bumps right behind the toads’ eyes are called paratoid glands and they secrete bufotoxin, a compound that, if ingested, can make a predator that eats a toad very sick. The moral of the story is, “Don’t eat toads!”

The main reason we don’t handle the toads very often is because they pee when you pick them up! This is another defense strategy that toads use to avoid predation. What predator wants a mouthful of toad pee?  So, another moral to the story is, “If you pick up a toad make sure the butt points away from you, or towards the person you like least!”

Next time you visit us here at Splash, be sure to step into Critterville and say hi to Wynken, Blynken, and Nod!