Western Toad

Western Toad

Pacific Toad, Boreal Toad, Rocky Mountain Toad

Anaxyrus boreas

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The Western Toad, also known as the Anaxyrus boreas, is a fascinating amphibian species found in various habitats across western North America. These toads are well-known for their distinct appearance, vocalizations, and ecological importance. With warty skin, a robust body, and characteristic large parotoid glands behind their eyes, Western Toads are easily identifiable. They range in size from 2 to 5 inches, making them relatively large compared to other toad species. Their preferred habitats include forests, meadows, wetlands, and even alpine regions. Western Toads are nocturnal and spend their days hiding in burrows or seeking shelter under logs or rocks. At night, they become active and are skilled hunters, preying on insects, spiders, worms, and other small invertebrates. As a defense mechanism, Western Toads can secrete a milky toxin from their parotoid glands, deterring predators and providing them with a line of defense.

Western Toad

Common Name
Western Toad

Other Names

Pacific Toad, Boreal Toad, Rocky Mountain Toad

Latin Name

Anaxyrus boreas

Distribution

BC, AB, YK, NWT

Appearance

Western Toads have a robust and stocky body with warty skin. Their coloration varies, ranging from shades of brown, gray, or green, often with dark spots or blotches. The parotoid glands located behind their eyes are large and noticeable.

Size

Adult Western Toads typically measure around 2.5 to 5 inches in length, with females generally being larger than males.

Habitat

Western Toads inhabit a wide range of habitats, including forests, meadows, wetlands, grasslands, and alpine regions. They require access to both terrestrial and aquatic environments throughout their lifecycle.

Behavior

Western Toads are primarily active during the night, seeking refuge during the day to avoid extreme temperatures and predators. During the day, they often seek shelter in underground burrows, crevices, or beneath logs or rocks. Male Western Toads exhibit territorial behavior during the breeding season. They establish and defend territories in and around breeding sites, which they use to attract females and deter rival males. Vocalizations play a crucial role in signaling ownership of territories. Western Toads are known to hibernate during the colder months. They burrow into the ground or seek shelter in deep leaf litter, where they remain dormant and conserve energy until the weather becomes favorable again.

Diet

They are skilled hunters, feeding on a diverse diet of insects, spiders, worms, and other small invertebrates.

Lifecycle

Breeding occurs in water bodies such as ponds, lakes, or slow-moving streams. Females lay long strings of gelatinous eggs attached to submerged vegetation. The eggs hatch into tadpoles, which undergo metamorphosis over several weeks, developing limbs and lungs to become terrestrial toads.

Vocalization

Western Toads produce a distinctive call during the breeding season, resembling a high-pitched trill or a cat-like meow. Males are the primary vocalizers, using their calls to attract females and establish territory.

Defense Mechanisms

When threatened, Western Toads can secrete a milky-white toxic substance from their parotoid glands. This toxin acts as a deterrent to predators, causing irritation or even mild toxicity if ingested. It serves as a defense mechanism to protect the toads from potential harm.

Ecological Importance

Western Toads play an important ecological role. As insectivores, they help control populations of insects and other invertebrates, contributing to the balance of local ecosystems.

Conservation Status

The Western Toad faces various conservation challenges due to habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and the spread of a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis. Different populations of Western Toads may have varying conservation statuses, ranging from least concern to threatened or endangered.
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