AND RACCOONS HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON
by Whit Gibbons
May 23, 2004
Lizards, tadpoles, and raccoons have something in common--at least this
week. They were among the animals I received questions about over the
last few days.
Q. - I read
that a male broad-headed skink can kill a cat if ingested. My cat caught
one, and after awhile the tail of the skink broke off and my cat ate the
tail. Could ingesting only the broken tail harm my cat?
A. - Some
blue-tailed skinks appear to be poisonous to cats, but no one is certain
whether all of the several species of these lizards are toxic. At least
five species of U.S. skinks, especially juveniles, have blue tails. Veterinarians
confirm that at least some blue-tailed skinks are noxious to cats, but
this may not be true of the big adult males, which do not retain the blue
tail color. The effect is rapid, so you should know within an hour if
the cat is going to have a reaction. I know from personal experience that
at least one species of skink tastes incredibly vile, even when sautéed,
and will make a person temporarily ill. However, the topic of toxic skinks
has been poorly explored and is little understood by herpetologists or
Q. - Two
weeks ago, our goldfish pond had hundreds of little black tadpoles swimming
around in it. Now only a few are left. Did the goldfish eat them?
A. - Goldfish
are in the carp family, and most eat detritus, algae, and other plant
material. They probably do not eat tadpoles in large quantities, although
they might eat frog eggs and an occasional tadpole. Some toads have tadpoles
that can develop from eggs to toadlets over a two-week period, so they
probably just metamorphosed and left your pond.
Q. - I recently
saw two frogs in our small pond, apparently mating. The large one was
slightly smaller than my fist; on its back was a much smaller one. I moved
a stone so they could get out of the pond since its plastic sides are
slick and steep. The next day the frogs were still together, floating
peacefully. On the third day the smaller one had disappeared, and the
large one was dead. The fourth day I saw perhaps a thousand tadpoles swimming
around the pond. Could they have been the result of the witnessed union?
Did I miss the stage I saw last year when long transparent, spaghetti-like
ropes of eggs were stuck onto the underside of my aquatic plants?
A. - What
you saw was two toads (not frogs) mating, the smaller one being the male.
In most true frogs and treefrogs, the sexes are the same size or the male
is larger. With the common toads and spadefoot toads, the females get
much bigger. Strings of eggs are characteristic of the several species
of common brown toads found throughout the United States and southern
Canada. The eggs can develop into tadpoles within four days of being laid,
so the tadpoles you saw could have resulted from the mating you witnessed.
You may simply have overlooked the eggs that became tadpoles. I do not
know why the female died; if the male was able to get out, she should
Q. - The
other day our Scottish terrier chased a large raccoon that was hightailing
it across my yard. The raccoon got away, and the dog was nosing at a very
small baby raccoon. I got the dog inside the house, hoping mama would
return for the baby. Later that day, the baby was gone. Can I assume a
happy ending to this little nature drama? Is a mama raccoon like a mother
cat, moving her babies as the fancy strikes? Would she come back for the
A. - The
mother probably came back for the baby, which would have followed her
to safety. Had the dog cornered the mother raccoon, even without her baby,
your question, directed to a vet, would probably have been, how do I patch
up my Scottie. Raccoons will not ordinarily protect their babies out in
the open the way bears would, but they will move very young babies from
one place to another if they feel threatened.
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