The Fowler’s toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) 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 Fowler’s toad is a large yellow, green or brown toad with a light stripe down the middle of the back and large dark blotches, each of which has three or more “warts.” The white belly lacks dark spots. The call of this toad sounds like a crying baby or a nasal “waaa” and lasts about two to five seconds. Listen to the call of the Fowler’s toad (courtesy of Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme).
The Fowler’s toad looks very similar to the American 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 the American toad. 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 calls.
In Ontario, the Fowler’s toad is found in sandy shoreline and peninsula habitat, and is adapted to the early stages of ecological succession in sand dune and lakeshore habitats. They are characteristically unstable, because of fluctuating lake levels and unpredictable floods and storms. These toads breed in backwater marshes and other shallow areas of permanent waterbodies, and may migrate up to several hundred metres between breeding areas and terrestrial habitats.
View an interactive map of the known ranges of Fowler’s toads in Ontario.
Fowler’s toads may begin calling in late April but usually breed in May, when evening temperatures are above 14ºC. Cool weather may interrupt the breeding season, resulting in staggered groups of tadpoles being born, which then complete their metamorphosis at different times during the summer. Each female may lay up to 12,000 eggs. At cool temperatures, tadpole development is a bit slower than that of the American toad. Maturity may be reached as early as one year but normally takes two years. Individuals up to four years old have been found in the wild.
Both adult toads and their tadpoles 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.
Other names: Bufo fowleri, Bufo woodhousii fowleri
Threats and Trends
The number of Fowler’s toads in a given area can fluctuate tremendously over time, because of the unstable nature of their habitat. Storms can create or destroy breeding habitat, as well as kill individuals. Even without such disturbances, normal ecological succession will slowly degrade a breeding area within five to 10 years. Extensive development of the Lake Erie shoreline leaves little opportunity for storm and flood events to create new habitat. Both adult Fowler’s toads and the tadpoles are known to be sensitive to pesticides, but to what extent these chemicals have contributed to this toad’s decline is unknown.
Current Status and Protection
The Fowler’s toad is currently listed as Endangered under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 and Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act. The species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Amphibian under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. These acts offer protection to individuals and their habitat. The habitat of this species is further protected in Ontario by the Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the global status of the Fowler’s toad as Least Concern. The species’ status was last confirmed in July 2010. Additional detail about legal protection for species at risk in Ontario is available on our Legal Protection page.
Learn more about reptile and amphibian conservation and what you can do to help these species on our Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship page.