My Couch's Spadefoots

Scaphiopus couchii*

*The epithet couchii is in honor of American naturalist Darius Nash Couch, who collected the first specimen while on a personal expedition to northern Mexico to collect plant, mineral and animal specimens for the Smithsonian Institution.


I purchased my first Couch's spadefoot at a local pet store in the summer of 2001.  His name was Frank.  He has since passed on, but he will never be forgotten.

7-05 frank front view 2.jpg (145486 bytes)

Click here to read about Frank the Spadefoot and see photographs of him or click on his picture above.


When Frank died, I couldn't stand being without a spadefoot, so I looked all over the internet and finally found some.  I had to spend a fortune on the overnight shipping.  I only asked for two:  a male and female.  However, four were sent and they were all males.  I was disappointed, but what could I do but fall in love with them---they were all cute in their own way.  I named them after members of Frank Zappa's band---Terry Bozzio, Don Preston, Napoleon Murphy Brock and Ike Willis.  A few days later, I noticed they had signs of the fungus that Frank had.  I strongly believe it was the medication that killed Frank and that he would still be here today if I had just left him alone.  So this time, I let the fungus alone.  For many months, the fungus disappeared with skin-shedding, then re-appeared soon afterward.  It doesn't seem to want to go away, although it doesn't seem to harm the spadefoots.  All four are pictured together below on November 7, 2007:  top left-Don, top right-Terry, bottom left-Ike, bottom right-Napoleon.  All of them have now passed on, except for Don, all dying from the same disease (not the fungus though), discussed below.


Click on each thumbnail to see a larger view!


All Four

These were taken on December 2, 2007, one of the few times since their arrival when they all were fungus-free at the same time.




Here are the last photos of all four of them together, taken on April 20, 2008.  Four days later, Terry had died (you can't see his bad foreleg---it is in the dirt).  Napoleon is in the water.  Terry is in the back.  Ike is in the middle, and Don is in front.



Terry and Ike 11-8-07




Ike and Don 6-25-08

On June 25, 2008, I took these photos of Ike and Don soaking in their water dish.  About a week later, Ike came down with that awful virus that made his leg swell up, but here he looks healthy and happy (and bloated up like a balloon!).





Terry (May 2007 - April 24, 2008)

Terry had a rough life from the get-go.  He was severely dehydrated when he arrived and was blue in color due to lack of water.  He wouldn't eat on his own for 3-4 weeks and had to be force-fed until he finally regained his appetite.  He was doing well until about mid-April 2008, when he developed what appeared to be a tumor on his foreleg---it looked like his whole foot had swollen up.  I didn't know what to do, so I was just keeping an eye on it.  Not even a week later, I found him dead.  He was my favorite because he looked the most like Frank.  He is pictured below on November 8, 2007.






Napoleon (May 2007 - December 25, 2008)

Napi was doing great until several days after Terry died.  Here he is pictured on December 2, 2007.



 Unfortunately, near the end of April 2008, he had a swollen hind leg.  It looked similar to what Terry had in his front leg.  The photo below from May 7th was taken about a week after it started swelling up.  On July 3rd, he still had a huge open wound that had looked worse than this picture, but seemed to be improving.  It wept fluid all day long, but every day, I soaked him in a tetracycline bath (made from fish medications) and put neosporin on the wound.  He had been surviving two months with the condition.  He had to be force-fed for a month or so, but since the end of August, he has been eating on his own again and seems to have his appetite back.  After researching on the internet, I think it is a possibility he could have had ranavirus (also called Frog Virus 3 or Tadpole Edema Virus) because he seemed to have the same symptoms.  If not, it was certainly some form of horrible virus.  It says that ranavirus is 90% lethal.  One of the main problems is the secondary infections that can occur at the sites of the lesions.  It is important to keep the lesions free of bacteria, which is what I've been doing.  Terry never even had the chance to develop the lesions---the virus must have ruined his internal organs too quickly.

leg on 5-7-08
leg on 7-6-08
leg on 9-17-08.  New skin has covered the entire area and it is no longer bulged out.

At the end of September, I put him back into the tank with Don and the toad that was cut by the lawnmower.  He was only there for two weeks when the bulge reappeared and broke open.  I tried the same treatments as before, but I could tell that he had some type of systemic infection as one could see fluids in his abdominal cavity when he was moved slightly.  The past month before he died, he had to be force-fed, as he had lost his appetite.  He was having trouble digesting crickets, so I tried a worm, which he seemed to hold down.  However, the following day (December 25, 2008), he had somehow flipped himself over in his soaking bath.  He hardly ever moved when he was in there, let alone turn himself.  He also had his eyes open for about 48 hours straight.  Previously, he didn't hardly open them at all except maybe fifteen minutes a day when I was cleaning his wound.  I took him out of his bath and kept him moist on a plate in a plastic bin, but about 7 hours later, he had died, just before midnight on Christmas Day.




Ike (May 2007 - August 17, 2009)

Ike was doing great until July 1, 2008.  That was when Ike's front right foot and leg swelled up like Terry and Napi.  Here he is pictured on November 8, 2007.





In the following photos taken on July 1, 2008, you can see how his right foreleg is all swollen up.  I have always loved the way Ike "sits" for me for minutes at a time.  Most toads don't do this, but Ike will sit on any flat surface for minutes at a time.  So I bought him a little couch to do a photo shoot.  This isn't the exact setting I had wanted, but I thought that I better take some photos or he could be dead in a few days like Terry.  I just hope he is strong enough to battle this out like Napi has been doing.  Notice how different his coloration is now---his head is turning lime green (that was nothing to do with the virus---he's been this way for several months).  His dark gray markings hardly even show anymore.










Here is a video of Ike croaking on December 5, 2008.



Sadly, as of December 25, 2008, Ike's foreleg has gone down in size and appears nearly normal, but the disease has manifested itself in his left hind leg and worsened quickly. 

As of March 14, 2009, Ike is bloated in general and his foot and lower hind leg are very swollen.  He still has an appetite. 

On March 20, his foot finally broke open and is weeping like Napi's.  I treated him with antibiotic ointment and tetracycline soaks.  In June, I even started a treatment with something called Scarlet Oil, which is often used with horses.  A friend of mine said her vet treated a stray cat she found that had a huge lesion on its leg that smelled like rotting meat and it worked for the cat.  It didn't seem to get any worse with its application.  However, in the beginning of July, Ike didn't want to eat much and he was hardly moving around anymore.  His skin was leathery and brown and not normal at all.  He stopped eating.  Because he was in such bad shape, I didn't try to force feed him.  The last few days before he died on August 17, 2009, he did open his eyes a few times (which had been rare over the last month) and I gently pet him and he didn't flinch as he often did when his eyes were closed.  It was like he did see me.




Here is Don on November 24, 2007.



  Here are a few videos of Don croaking on 5-29-09.





Here is Don after I dug him up on December 22, 2009.  He had been buried for about 4 months and I was getting worried about him.




Here is Don on May 21, 2010.  I found him resting with Triangle Toad, a toad I kept from my toad studies at my old house.  Also pictured is Right Hand Man, from my new toad studies.



On August 8, 2010, I recorded a couple videos of Don burying himself...



Here is Don on September 3, 2010.  Behind him is Triangle Toad and an unnamed toad on top of her head.



Here is Don, photographed outside on October 4, 2011.  Thankfully, he is still doing great---I've had him for nearly 4 1/2 years now.

I thought it was neat that the reflection in Don's eye in the first photo shows me taking the picture along with the background behind me.







Here is Don with Right Hand Man.




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