May 2nd, 2008
Ode to Toad (or rather Requiem for a Frog)


AJM came in upset from his morning ritual of greeting the goldfish. “There’s a toad or something caught in the bird-netting and I think it’s dead.” I went to check and so it was. The poor thing had gotten its nose stuck in the netting and its own weight held just its nose under water and it drowned.


Last night a second maker of ribbets joined the bullfrog. And then there was a distinctively different croak. Was it this frog? A Rio Grande leopard frog, Rana berlandieri perhaps. This one was large, (although I don’t know how frogs are measured), at least 4 inches from nose to anus not counting the legs.


This is not the first time the bird-netting has caught something unintended. Durn raccoons. If it weren’t for the raccoons, I wouldn’t put the netting over the pond. If I take it off, then I chance waking to dead goldfish tomorrow. Is what differentiates humans from other animals the fact that all our interventions are fraught with anxiety? Or is that just a phenomenon of us city-bred moderns, we squeamish ones, who are out of touch with death?

by M Sinclair Stevens

9 Responses to post “Ode to Toad (or rather Requiem for a Frog)”

  1. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter:

    It’s not being squeamish, it’s not wanting things to be killed unnecessarily. (No frog is an island…the death of one diminishes us all. With apologies to John Donne.) It is an ethical dilemma in which you have to play god; who lives? who dies? Aw, hell, just shoot the raccoons! :^)

  2. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Have you tried a different kind of raccoon deterrent? Maybe a screen of chicken wire or cattle panel would do the trick, keeping out the raccoons but not trapping the lesser creatures.

  3. From Rachel @ in bloom:

    He was a very pretty frog, too. I found a floating frog (very small) in my pup’s water bowl following all our rains last weekend. I didn’t take a lot of time to look at it – I tossed it away – but I felt bad for it nonetheless.

  4. From Patricia:

    I have a little pond (about 100 gallons) and a couple of years ago the raccoons almost destroyed all my pond plants and over about a month of time, ate all my beautiful fish.

    So, I started over. I had some flat rock, like flagstone that I placed on top of some bricks at the bottom of the pond. Now the fish can hide from those awful critters and I don’t need to place anything over the pond. It works great. This spring one of my koi got so big that I had to get bigger bricks but it still works.

    You may want to try it.

  5. From Karen, Savannah:

    I approve of Patricia’s approach. Give the fish somewhere to hide from predators.

    Have to remember that goldfish are not endangered, whereas frogs, like all amphibians, are in steady decline. So, when asked to play god, I have to favor saving the amphibians!

    The fish do have some hiding spots. And they are, after all, only 10 cent goldfish (which have now grown into 6-inch goldfish that we know individually). The bigger problem was that when the raccoons chased them around the pond, they stirred up the water and shredded the plants–the far more expensive plants. We have since installed a bio-filter which should handle the problems with water quality. We’ll try to make the hidey-holes better tomorrow and then experiment without a net. — mss

  6. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    What Karen wrote made sense, and I second what Patricia wrote, do the fish have a place to hide?

    Dealing with ‘garden predators’, be they raccoons or rabbits, can be so maddening and exasperating. You have my sympathies.

  7. From our friend Ben in Pennsylvania:

    Wretched raccoons! They used to come around in spring and eat every goldfish in my barrel garden–and it was right on the back deck, too! Then I added a length of clay pipe in the bottom of the barrel garden so the fish could escape. Worked like a charm! I figure that any fish who’s not smart enough to hide in there during a raccoon attack deserves his Darwin Award. And strangely, once spring is over, the raccoons hea doff for greener pastures so I don’t have to worry. Good luck, and what a handsome frog!

  8. From kate:

    I wouldn’t want to wake to dead goldfish, but ugh, it’s sad to see the death of a toad. RIP, Toad, and remember, your death was not in vain. You took one for the fish.

    I’ve felt so guilty that two days ago I went ahead and removed the bird-netting. — mss

  9. From Philip, East Austin:

    Cool looking toad. I have not had that variety in my pond. I also have had quite a few raccoons, but the above ground, raised sides of the Callahan’s feeder tank seems to deter them from getting into the fish. I also used netting in the fall when my Post Oak starts to drop. Great blog and great pictures!

    Thanks. I’m about to put netting on the pond again. I don’t mind losing the fish, so much. They are just ten cent goldfish. I do hate, however, having the much more expensive plants shredded and the water made all mucky by the rampaging raccoons. — mss