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Woodhouse Toad

Whether you refer to this animal as a Woodhouse toad, Sand toad, Rocky Mountain toad, Common toad, Western toad, or just Mr.Toad, the Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii, formerly Bufo woodhousii) is by far the most common toad in Nebraska.

Woodhouse's toad is extremely variable and lacks any good distinguishing coloration or pattern. This toad may have a white line running down its back and a black dot or blotch on the upper chest. In Nebraska, if you see a toad it is likely Woodhouse's toad. For positive identification use a field guide and determine what species it is not. If it does not have the features of a Great Plains toad (Anaxyrus cognatus) or a Spadefoot (Spea bombifrons) and you are in anywhere in Nebraska other than a small location in the extremely east central portion of the state, it must be Woodhouse's Toad. This species is a fairly large toad, occasionally exceeding 5 inches in body length. When recently metamorphosed they are less than ¼-inch.

These toads are primarily active at night and will be found in the evenings or shady areas in the heat of the summer months. They will be most active when it is misty or rainy and during the breeding period which is from April - June & September after rains. In cooler evenings they can be found around barns and building feasting on insects attracted to lights.

They use almost any habitat in Nebraska, preferring soft sandy soils in lowland areas or close to artificial water sources. When inactive, the toad burrows underground, or hides under cover or in mulch. While commercially available "toad houses" may look good, a natural toad hiding place, called a refudgia, is much better. A partly buried hollow log or piece of heavy bark is a common refudgia.

The Woodhouse's toad diet predominantly consists of soft-bodied insects such as moths. Earthworms will be eaten if encountered.

They may travel a considerable distance from open water. Since amphibians do not drink water through their mouths, the toad absorbs moisture from the ground through an area call a "pelvic seat." It will store water in its lymph sac and bladder. When you pick up a toad, the fluid it expels in fright is just stored water. Incidentally, a person cannot get warts from any toad.

Woodhouse's toads do not possess ant teeth or claws but for defense they retain glands on the back of their heads that contain an irritant toxin. This will cause most dogs and cats to foam at the mouth and drop the toad. This toxin, called bufotoxin, may cause serious health concerns for small pets that ingest large quantities.

To learn and enjoy the calls (song/voice) of male Woodhouse toads consider purchasing the "Frog Calls of Nebraska" CD from UNL's School of Natural Resources online store.

Woodhouse Toad
Image of Dennis Ferraro
Dennis Ferraro
Wildlife Biologist & Herpetologist Extension Specialist
Dennis Ferraro is the resident herpetologist and wildlife biologist at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln School of Natural Resources. He has been a UNL faculty member since 1990.