Stumpy the Houston Toad

This post was written by Jacquelyne Brauneis


Who is this gorgeous toad in the picture you ask? Why that’s Stumpy, and I’m here to tell you her story. Stumpy is a Houston toad survivor, which is an amazing accomplishment as there are so few left. It is because of this that I decided she needed her story told.

Stumpy’s ancestors hail from a pond in Bastrop state park, and are uniquely grouped together as “strand 4”. Stumpy was born at the Houston Zoo on March 30, 2009 making her 4 years old. Originally, Stumpy was going to be part of assisted reproduction program, which would aim to produce tadpoles from viable female and male toads. But an infection would soon halt any future reproduction efforts on Stumpy’s part.

On November 6, 2012 Stumpy was taken to the zoos veterinary clinic. She was showing signs of swelling in her front right digits, which is a tell tale sign of a mycobacterial infection. Mycobacterium is a genus of bacteria, which is notoriously hard to treat. It usually proves fatal for the toads. Luckily for Stumpy, the infection was in her digits, which could be amputated without taking away her quality of life. If the infection had been any higher, say around her knee area, her future would not have looked so bright.

After an aspiration of her digits came back positive for Mycobacteria, it confirmed what everyone had presumed. Amputation was Stumpy’s only option. On November 10 her 1st, 3rd, and 4th toes were amputated, with the hopes that this would both stop the infection from spreading but also allow her to heal properly. Unfortunately 2 days later, it was obvious that her infection was not improving, so the veterinary team elected to amputate the entire front right foot.

Stumpy healed quickly and enjoyed her hospital stay, which included a private toad suite of her own and daily cricket feedings. With her foot healing, Stumpy was prepared for release and returned to the Houston Toad facility on December 6th.

Stumpy now spends her days, hopping around (or stumping around if you will!), playing in her water, sleeping in her toad house, and enjoying her meals of crickets. While she may be one foot short, she doesn’t let that stop her! She is incredibly fast, and usually beats her 4 legged tank mates when it comes to getting food.

Jacquelyne cleans Stumpy's tank.
Jacquelyne cleans Stumpy’s tank.

Obviously her name came from her “stump” where her foot used to be. Stumpy embraces it, and will come to the tank when I call her (unless she’s comfortably in her toad house, then the only thing that will get her out of there is crickets!). When I call her by name (or one of the many nicknames I have made up for her, such as “Miss Stumps”) she looks up at me with a sweet knowing look in her eye.

That’s the amazing thing about the Houston Toads. They are very cerebral, far more than people will give them credit and they do have unique personalities. Unfortunately their numbers are critically low making it almost impossible for people to see this side of the toads. As an Intern, I feel truly lucky to have met an animal like Stumpy and she has truly inspired me.

Like I said before, she is a Houston Toad survivor. With population numbers so low, the Houston Toad community needs all the survivors it can get. Stumpy is truly a “toadally” amazing toad!

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