Forest Findings: Fowler’s Toad

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by Colleen Dabrowski

The Fowler’s Toad, Anaxyrus fowleri, is native to North America and can be found throughout the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. Fowler’s Toads live in a variety of habitats, such as wooded areas, near rivers, streams or ponds, in marshlands and farm lands.

According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Fowler’s Toads are typically inactive during the day and seek cover under rocks or plants, in bushes or even buried in soil. The toads are terrestrial, meaning they live on land in addition to being nocturnal. They are most likely to be found on warm and humid nights.

Like most toads, the Fowler’s Toad has dry skin with warts. According to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Fowler’s Toads are relatively small toads, averaging only two to three inches in size. The toads can vary in color from brown to olive green to grey to reddish brown on their backs, with a pale, white belly. Males of the species are typically darker in color than the females. The toads use their coloration as camouflage to hide from predators such as snakes and birds. The Fowler’s Toad is also known to play dead when stressed.

The toads mate in the spring and summer, particularly in May and June. The mating takes place in water, be it roadside puddles to large ponds. The males will sit in the shallow waters and call to the females, a call that sounds like a sheep bleating for 1-4 seconds, according to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. The call will attract both males and females. If a male responds to another male’s call, they will attempt to mate. The responding male has been reported to then make a different call “informing him of his mistake,” according to Wikipedia. Females will lay eggs in strings of up to 20,000, typically after a heavy rain. Tadpoles will undergo metamorphosis two months after hatching and reach sexual maturity approximately two years later.

The diet of Fowler’s Toads consists primarily of insects and land invertebrates like snails and worms. The average lifespan of a Fowler’s Toad is five years.

Fowler’s Toads can be found all around campus after dusk at the start of Fall semester and end of Spring semester.

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