Order: Anura – frogs and toads
Family: Bufonidae – true toads
Scientific Name: Bufo woodhousii
Description: Because this toad has few distinctive characteristics, it is best identified by eliminating other species. It has a round snout and enlarged kidney shaped gland on the neck behind each eye. Coloring ranges from gray or greenish-gray to brown with irregular and elongated brown or dark gray-green spots. It has a light colored mid-dorsal stripe and the belly is usually light with no spots. Length ranges from 2 ½-4” with females being larger than breeding males. Fingers are free and toes are moderately webbed. The tympanum is easily visible. The skin of this toad is fairly dry with a warty appearance. The call is a nasal w-a-a-ah, much like the sound of sheep bleating in the distance.
Home Range: The Dakotas and Montana to Central Texas; west of the Rocky Mountains from Northern Utah to Central Arizona. Isolated colonies in several states including Texas, Idaho, and Montana.
Habitat Type: This toad prefers lowland sandy areas, such as marshes, river bottoms, mountain canyons, desert streams, irrigated areas, and urban and suburban backyards. It is the only toad to inhabit the floodplains of large streams.
Reproductive Habits: Breeding occurs in March-July. Woodhouse’s Toads prefer sloughs on river floodplains to breed. Males will gather at a breeding site and emit a sound called a chorus which attracts females. The chorus is species-specific so that only females of the proper species will respond. The female lays up to 25,000 eggs in strings which are attached to vegetation in shallow water. The eggs hatch in about one week and larva metamorphose in 2-3 weeks. The young toads reach maturity in 2-3 years. Males are notorious for trying to mate with anything that moves, including other males, fish and driftwood.
Diet in Wild: bees, beetles, insect larva, and spiders and ants.
Diet in Zoo: 3 crickets on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. 1 pinky (baby) mouse on Sunday.
General Info: This toad is very important economically because of its voracious appetite for insects. Some individuals will consume as much as 2/3 of their body weight in insects each day.
During the day, Woodhouse’s toads often hide out in small mammal burrows. They appear at night, usually around lights where insects are prevalent, to hunt. Recently metamorphosed toads will sometimes become active during the day. Adults only return to the water to breed. At other times, dew and condensation provide adequate moisture as this toad does not lose water as quickly as other amphibians. They can tolerate higher temperatures than other toads.
Because its legs are short and strong, these toads hop rather than jump. Woodhouse’s toads secrete a toxin from the parotoid (shoulder) gland which can be irritating to mucus membranes and can be fatal if swallowed in sufficient amounts. This chemical, known as a Bufotoxin, causes an increase in cardiac rates when it reaches the bloodstream.
Predators: Very few predators can withstand the toxin of adult toads. Free-swimming larva may be preyed upon by fish, frogs, and predatory insects. Hognose snakes specialize in eating toads.
Related Artifacts: Two live specimens located in Kansas Animals Exhibit.
Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. Joseph T. Collins. University of Kansas Press. Lawrence, KS. 1993. pp. 62-64.
The Completely Illustrated Atlas of Reptiles and Amphibians for the Terrarium. Fritz Jurgen Obst et al. T. F. H. Publications. Neptune City, NJ. 1988. pp.119-121, 128.
Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians. Roger Conant et al. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston, MA. 1991. pp.310-311.