Decidedly, old misconceptions have a long life! I thought the myth that touching a toad will give you warts was a thing of the past, but just recently a reader emailed me asking if it were true.
The answer is … of course not!
This old belief comes from the fact that the toad’s body seems covered with warts, but in fact, it isn’t. The protuberances that cover its body are glands that help keep its skin moist, not warts. And some of these glands release a poison to discourage its predators and therefore it’s always best to wash your hands after handling a toad, otherwise it could cause skin irritation on some individuals … but not warts!
Anyway, there is rarely a good reason to manipulate a wild animal, not even something as docile as a toad.
Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and spread by touch from one infected person to another. The virus can also live on surfaces for some time, so it’s not wise to walk barefoot in a public place. But warts never come from animals.
Toads are beneficial creatures that consume many plant predators (insects, slugs, etc.) and, as such, we should encourage their presence in our gardens, but we don’t normally have to handle them. Just let them live their life, period!