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When I was a kid, I had a wild pet toad named Toady Wart Face who lived in a window well but could roam our yard freely. He never came inside our home and kept our yard clean by eating all the grubs and bugs in sight. I loved being able to enjoy Toady in his natural habitat.
You could keep a wild “pet” frog by creating the perfect environment for frogs in your yard, garden or window well. However, some frogs are protected, endangered or invasive species so it is key to follow local rules and regulations when attracting frogs to your yard.
We do not recommend buying a pet frog and, generally, it is illegal to adopt wildlife in captivity. For example, in Canada where I live, it is illegal to harass wildlife or to keep a wild animal in captivity. Penalties vary from province to province, but in Ontario offenders could be fined up to $20K and be criminally charged.
But often, creating an ideal environment to naturally attract frogs and toads to your yard to observe them from a distance is a great way to enjoy their presence on your property while respecting them as wildlife. This may be possible long as you follow local animal laws.
Respect Local Animal Laws
Before diving in, let’s clarify what we mean by “pets” in the context of this blog: An outdoor animal that generally lives on your property (not inside your home) which you can observe in their natural habitat from a distance. You should not need to care for the frog, touch it, feed it or take it inside your home. The frog should find everything it needs in the environment you create and only be treated as from-a-distance, observational “pet.”
Before attracting wild frogs as backyard “pets”, be sure that you are allowed to do so by getting in touch with a local and recognized wildlife center or Animal Wildlife Department. Some frogs and toads are protected, endangered or invasive species and depending on the animal, you may or may not be able to let it live in your yard. Here are some phone numbers you can call to find out more:
|Canadian Wildlife Service
|U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
|Department of Biodiversity, Conservation & Attractions
|(08) 9219 9000
|Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
|03459 33 55 77
If you are allowed to attract frogs to your yard, read on. We will have a look at creating the perfect backyard environment for wild frogs and toads below.
Aquatic Frogs as Wild Frog Pond Pets
Before we dive in, be sure to remind yourself of the difference between frogs and toads. Although they eat similar things, they are very different species with different needs. Depending on which type of frog you would like to attract to your yard, you will need to create different environments.
If your goal is to attract aquatic frogs to your yard, then creating a frog-friendly pond is probably the best solution. We have a complete guide on how to create a frog pond based on my parent’s experience making a pond that naturally attracted three frogs to it.
Generally, a frog-friendly pond requires fresh water, plants, shade, hiding spaces, few predators, and the presence of bugs for frogs to eat. If the pond is large enough, they may spawn there during mating season. Having a frog-friendly pond can be an excellent way to naturally attract wildlife to your yard that you can observe and enjoy.
Learn about how to create a frog pond in this guide on our blog.
Toads as Wild Garden Pets
You can attract toads to your backyard or garden if it has the right environment for them including water, food, and shelter. Regularly water your garden and add small pools for toads. Attract bugs by using compost in your garden and create small shelters for toads with rocks, sticks, leaves and branches.
If toads have a water source, plenty of places to hide, and a steady source of food, the chances are they will live quite comfortably. It’s a win-win, because not only do they have a nice place to live, but you can have an easy and natural pest solution for your garden.
Toads as Wild Window Well Pets
I had a pet toad in a window well as a kid and I loved it. My parents did not mind because the toad kept the basement windows very clean and cost them nothing. I was happy because I got to watch the toad eat and grow over the Summer without taking him out of his natural habitat. But my grandmother told me myths of getting toad warts and tried to scare my parents out of keeping it in the yard. Gladly, it did not work.
Having Toady as my “Free Range Toad” is where my love of frogs and toads grew 🙂 But I have some important tips for you if you would like this to work, so here they are:
- Make the environment awesome for the toad
- Make sure the toad can get out of the window well
- Make sure there is clean water daily
Let’s explore each of these tips in more detail.
Make Your Window Well an Ideal Place for a Toad
If your window well is shallow, has a soil bottom, is humid, mostly shaded, is full of bugs, and is facing North or East, it could be a great environment for a toad. However, if it is facing South or West, is in full sun, has a rock bottom and is dry, this is not a place to keep a toad.
Never let a toad remain in a window well that is too deep for it to escape, has a rock bottom or is facing South. This would be much to hot, dry and dangerous for the toad that risks dehydrating and dying. Make sure the window well is facing North or East, is in the shade most of the day, that it remains moist and is easy for the toad to crawl out of.
Toady Wart Face used to burrow in the window well and would generally make his way below ground by the end of Fall. Do not disturb the frogs natural hibernation cycles and let it naturally burrow during Winter and come out during Spring.
Let’s go into more detail about what the window well needs to have to be a great place for a toad.
Toads Need Food, Shelter, And Water
If your window well only has soil for the moment, add dead leaves, twigs, and live plants. Make sure the environment is moist since toads absorb water through their skin to drink, but do not flood it. Toads do not need as much water as frogs. Be sure to add a small pool of water and change the water daily. The water should ideally be filtered and not directly from the hose since frogs could absorb chemicals like chlorine in the water though their skin.
You can make a toad shelter by making a toad home. We have a full tutorial on how to in the video below.
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Also be sure there are enough bugs like spiders, flies, and slugs down there. My parents liked that I had a “free-range” toad because it cost them nothing, kept me busy as a kid, and kept the window clean! Overall, if the window is facing North or East, there should be humidity which will attract bugs.
Make Sure Your Toad Can Get Out of The Window Well
If your window wells are shallow enough that the toad can get in and out without difficulty, this will not be something you need to worry about. If not, you should build or install a “toad ramp.” You might laugh but actually, quite a few people do it.
Just place a wide enough piece of wood from the bottom of the window well to the top of it. If you take out the ramp during Winter, be sure to put it back in the Spring if your toad burrowed in the window well.
This gives the toads a way to get out and back into the window well if they want to. It needs exercise and the ability to find other bugs to get all the nutrition it needs. It may also leave to go to its birth pond to mate in the Spring so do not fret if your toad is gone for a few weeks.
If you have a toad in your backyard, make it feel at home by creating an ideal outdoor environment for it. If you would like to have frogs, set up a pond or dedicated water area in your backyard to attract local frogs.
Learn more about how to attract toads and frogs to your yard in our dedicated guide.
General Tips for Protecting Your Wild Frogs
The two main tips I would like to share with you in this section is handling your frogs with care and keeping predators at bay (CTNF).
Avoid Handling Frogs or Do So With Care
You should not have to handle your wild pet frog. Overall, the goal of having a frog or toad as an outdoor pet is to make them feel at home in your yard and to observe them in Nature without the need to actually pick them up or physically care for them. Toads and frogs do not like to be picked up by humans so avoid handling them as much as possible.
However, if you need to handle the frog, do so with care. Wash your hands, wear gloves, wet your hands before picking it up to reduce its stress, and carefully carry the frog without squishing its I internal organs.
We have a very detailed guide on how to handle frogs with care, be sure to read it before picking them up.
Keep Predators Away From Your Frogs
We had a dog so we would watch over him when he would go outside just in case Toady was roaming the yard. If you have any household pets such as a cat or dog, make sure they don’t go anywhere near your frogs! Some toads secrete toxins through their skin that can kill a dog or cat.
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If there are regularly skunks, raccoons, or snakes in your back yard, keep in mind that these are all toad predators and you should try to animal-proof your yard to help prolong your frog or toad’s lives and keep them safe. Get rid of any garbage or things that may attract these kinds of animals and put up fencing to keep them out.
Learn more about frog predators in this article on our blog.
Further Reading About Keeping a Wild Pet Frog
I think having a “free-range frog” or toad is a better way to interact with frogs than to have them as indoor pets. Creating an ideal environment to attract local frogs is a great way to enjoy their company while still allowing them to live in their natural environment. It is much more fun for you and the frog!
If you would like to learn more about attracting frogs to your yard, be sure to read the following:
- How to Make Frog & Toad House
- How to Safely Handle Frogs
- How to Naturally Attract Frogs to Your Yard
- How to Create a Frog-Friendly Pond
- How to Attract Toads To Your Garden
Questions Related to Keeping a Wild Pet Frog
Should You Get a Pet Toad? You should not get an indoor pet toad if you do not have an initial $70-$330, and $360-$520 per year to maintain it. And you should not get a pet toad if you do not have time to clean its terrarium regularly. However, an outdoor pet toad is a low-cost, easy maintenance alternative.
How Much Does a Pet Frog Cost? A pet frog generally costs an initial $70-$330 to obtain, and $360-$520 per year to maintain and feed. And you should not get a pet frog if you do not have the time or money to care for it. However, an outdoor pet frog can be a low-cost, easy maintenance alternative.