The American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) is one of only two toad species in Ontario. People cannot get warts from touching toads. In fact, the bumps on the skin of toads are not warts at all.
The American toad is a large, squat toad with brown, reddish or olive skin and dark blotches containing one to two spots or “warts” of various colours. The belly is white with dark spots. These toads often have a light line down the middle of the back. The tadpoles of this species are nearly black. Adult American toads grow to about 11 centimetres long. The call of this species is a monotone trill up to 30 seconds long, preceded by a single, slightly lower introductory note. In a breeding chorus, each male calls a different note. Listen to the call of the American toad (courtesy of Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme).
In extreme southern Ontario, the range of the American toad overlaps that of the Fowler’s toad. The best way to distinguish these two toads is by counting how many bumps are in each large dark blotch on the back. Fowler’s toads have three or four bumps per blotch, whereas American toads have one or two. The belly of Fowler’s toads tends to be white rather than white with black spots, as in American toads. These two species can hybridize, making identification more difficult in areas where both may occur. During breeding season, these species can be identified by their call.
American toads are found in a wide variety of terrestrial habitats, from mown grass and gardens to heavily forested areas. Their thick skin helps prevent dehydration and allows them to use drier habitats than would be suitable for many other amphibians. Like many amphibians, American toads inhabit ponds during the breeding season and as larvae. Breeding occurs in warm, shallow ponds, shallow streams, along river margins, and even large puddles and roadside ditches. American toads hibernate on land and burrow beneath the frost line in the soil.
View an interactive map of the known ranges of American toads in Ontario.
American toads breed from late March to early June, depending on how far north they are. They lay their eggs in two strands that are wrapped around aquatic vegetation or deposited on the bottom. The eggs hatch in a few days to a few weeks, and the tadpole stage lasts from 50 to 65 days. Emerging toadlets are among the smallest newly transformed amphibians and soon disperse into the surrounding habitat.
Both tadpoles and toads have poison glands in the skin that reduce their susceptibility to predators. A dog that picks up a toad will drop it and may foam at the mouth but will not be hurt. These toads eat insects and small creatures that live in soil, such as worms and slugs.
American toads are easily attracted to backyard ponds and gardens, especially where nighttime lighting attracts hordes of insects. These toads can move surprisingly fast.
Other names: Bufo americanus
Threats and Trends
The same threats that affect other amphibians (habitat loss, road mortality, pollution, etc.) also affect American toads, but they tend to withstand them more effectively than other species do. This is partly because American toads are habitat generalists, and the loss of a specific habitat type does not seriously affect this species.
Current Status and Protection
Neither the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario nor the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has assessed the status of the American toad. The species has no protection under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the global status of the American toad as Least Concern. The species’ status was confirmed in 2010.
Learn more about reptile and amphibian conservation and what you can do to help these species on our Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship page.