Western Toad

Bufo boreas

 

Western Toad Tracks

 

 

Natural History of Western Toads

Toad tracks in sand. Photo by Kim A. Cabrera 2002.  

Toads are nocturnal amphibians who roam overland looking for insects. They are most active at night because the daytime heat would dry them out. During the day, they hide under logs, boards, rocks, burrows of their own construction, or in rodent burrows. They get around mostly by walking, rather than hopping like frogs do. They will hop to escape danger.

Tracks are often indistinct, unless they are found in soft mud as in the photo below. Usually the tips of the toes leave round dots and drag marks in the sand. The drag marks point in the direction of travel.

Western toads have dry, warty skin and a light stripe down the back. You cannot get warts from handling a toad. They often travel far from sources of water, although they do require water for breeding.

In the soft sand of river bars, the drag marks from the hind toes are very prominent.

They breed between January and September. Long strings of eggs in a jelly-like substance are attached to vegetation in still, shallow water. The tadpoles emerge from the eggs and live in the shallows feeding on vegetation until they lose their tails and metamorphose into toads.

 

   
western toad track

The front track of a western toad in sandy soil. The deeper parts of the track show where the toe tips curl slightly under.

 
trail patten of western toad
There are several toad trails on this dusty dirt road.
 
toad scat
Scat left by a western toad, composed of insect parts
 
   
   
If you handle toads or other amphibians, remember that insect repellents, sunscreens, and other substances on your hands can damage their delicate, sensitive skin. Wash your hands before handling them, and get your hands wet so the oils from your skin won't harm the animal's ability to breathe. You will not get warts from toads.

Toad trail in sand. Photo by Kim A. Cabrera 2002.

A western toad found on a dirt road at night. Toads do more walking than hopping. It is their preferred mode of travel and is reflected in their trails.

 

western toad photo by Kim Cabrera 2007.

Western toad. Bufo boreas. Photo  Kim A. Cabrera 2007

Western toad. Bufo boreas. Photo  Kim A. Cabrera 2007

   

Toad foot. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. 2007.

Toad foot. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. 2007.

The right and left front feet of a western toad. No toads were harmed in the taking of these photos. The toad was released unharmed after I took photos of its feet.

Toad foot. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera. 2007.

The left hind foot of a western toad. No toads were harmed in the taking of this photo. The toad was released unharmed after I took photos of its feet.

A very small young Western Toad. This one shows many of the identifying characteristics of the adult toad.

 

Toad tracks. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Toad trail in fine silty mud. It is unusual to find such a nice trail because you need near-perfect conditions, such as this fine soil.

 

Toad tracks. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Toad tracks. Front on left and hind on right.

 

toad tracks. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2004.

Western toad tracks in riverside sand. This toad was walking up a slight incline. Arrow shows the direction of travel. The tracks show a drag mark where the toes were dragged on each step.

 

toad tracks. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2004.

Toad tracks in fine sand.

 
 

Toad tracks in dust. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

A nice set of toad tracks in a dusty dirt road.

 
 
Western toad. Bufo boreas. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
A western toad found outside at night.
 
Western toad. Bufo boreas. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
Western toad on a rock.
 
Western toad. Left hind foot. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

The left hind foot of a western toad. No toad was harmed in the taking of this photo.

 

Western toad. Left front foot palm. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

The palmar surface of the left front foot of a western toad. Notice the bumps, called tubercles.
The toad was released unharmed after this photo was taken.

 

Western toad. Right hind foot. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

The right hind foot of a western toad, showing webbing and tubercles. The toad was not harmed to take this photo.

 

Western toad. Back of left front foot. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

The back surface of a toad's left front foot. Toad released unharmed after photos taken.

 

Western toad outside at night. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

A western toad outside at night. This is the time when the toads hunt for food.

 

Western toad outside at night. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

The "warts" on a toad's skin at not really warts at all.

 

 

Photo above courtesy of Mark Seaver.

Personal Notes on Western Toads

Toads are frequently seen at night. I have found them near water and far from water. They apparently don’t need to be near a large body of water. Their tracks were puzzling to me at first. I found the fine traces in soft sand and it took a lot of thought to figure out exactly who made them. Then, I watched a toad move across a river bank. After taking a look at its tracks, I knew was able to solve the mystery.

I have never heard the voice of the western toad. I don’t even know if they make sound. Where I live, the most commonly heard amphibian is the Pacific treefrog.

I was somewhat surprised to find that toads prefer walking rather than hopping. It still amazes me when I walk down to the river bar in the morning and see all the toad tracks. There certainly are a lot of them out there. Morning is the best time to see the tracks, before the wind has erased the little delicate imprints.

 

 

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Toad tracks in sand at Burlington river bar - Humboldt Redwoods State Park, July 13, 1999.

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