Woodhouse’s Toad

Anaxyrus woodhousii woodhousii

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Photo of a Woodhouse’s toad in lawn grass.
Woodhouse’s toad occurs mainly along the Missouri River and along streams in western Missouri.
Jim Rathert
Family

Bufonidae (true toads) in the order Anura (frogs)

Description

The color of Woodhouse's toad ranges from green, greenish gray, gray, tannish gray to brown. It often has a white or tan stripe down the back. There are irregular (not paired) dark brown or black spots on the back with 1–6 “warts” inside each spot. The belly is plain white, but there is sometimes a single breast spot. The oblong parotoid gland is connected to a rather prominent bony crest on the head. Call is a short, nasal “w-a-a-ah,” lasting from 1 to 2½ seconds, similar to the call of the Fowler’s toad, but with a slightly lower pitch.

Similar species: Fowler’s toad used to be considered a subspecies of Woodhouse’s toad. It occurs in different parts of the state, usually has a dark gray spot on the chest, and its oblong parotoid gland is connected to a rather shallow bony crest on the head. Woodhouse’s toad can hybridize with the eastern American toad. Where this happens, intermediate characteristics will occur.

Size

Length (snout to vent): 2½ to 4 inches.

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Photo of a Woodhouse’s toad on indoor-outdoor carpet.
Woodhouse’s Toad
Woodhouse’s toad usually has irregular (not paired) dark brown or black spots on the back.

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Photo of a Woodhouse’s toad with elbows propped on a concrete ledge.
Woodhouse’s Toad
Woodhouse’s toad, like other toads, hides in burrows by day and becomes active at night.

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Photo of a Woodhouse's toad (juvenile).
Woodhouse's Toad (Juvenile)
The black tadpoles of Woodhouse's toad begin to change into toadlets by late June or mid-July.

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Photo of a Woodhouse’s toad walking in grass, showing back.
Woodhouse’s Toad
Certain characteristics are visible on the back that can separate Woodhouse’s toad from Fowler’s toad.

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Photo of a Woodhouse’s toad in grass, showing head.
Woodhouse’s Toad
As an insectivore, Woodhouse’s toad is a friend to people who like to be near water.

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Image of woodhouse's toad
Woodhouse's Toad

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Video of a woodhouse's toad in the wild.
Habitat and conservation

Mainly found in sandy river bottoms and lowlands, and open, dry areas adjacent to marshes. Like other toads, they hide in burrows by day and become active at night.

Foods

A nocturnal hunter of insects and other small prey.

image of Woodhouser's Toad Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Found mainly along the Missouri River floodplain and along streams in the western part of the state.

Status

Common. Apparently, it hybridizes with the Fowler’s toad, in a zone from north-central to central and southwestern Missouri.

Life cycle

Can become active in late March, but breeding begins in late April or early May, peaking in mid-May. Like other species of toads, this species lays several thousand eggs in flooded fields, ditches, ponds, pools, and streams. These hatch in about a week. The black tadpoles begin to change into toadlets by late June or mid-July.

Human connections

As an insectivore that lives along sandy river bottoms, this species is a friend to canoeists, fishers, and others who like to be near water but not get “eaten up” by various insects. The distinctive calls add to the symphony of an outdoor evening on the river.

Ecosystem connections

This species provides food for several species of aquatic snakes, as well as other predators. As a hunter itself, Woodhouse’s toad checks the populations of many insect species.