By Ava Barany, Raincoast Education Society

Western toad

Western toad

What’s small and bumpy and hops in the dark?  You guessed it, the Western Toad.  These amphibians have dry, bumpy skin and range in colour from green to gray to brown.    They have a distinctive yellow stripe down their back and horizontal pupils.  The ‘warts’ found on their skin are not warts at all, but glands that produce a sticky, white and bitter-tasting fluid when the toad feels threatened.
Western Toads can be found in a variety of habitats; in sandy-bottomed water bodies when they are breeding, in terrestrial forested and grassy areas when they are foraging, and in burrows below the frost line when they are hibernating.  They are primarily nocturnal animals, found west of the Rocky Mountains, from Mexico to southern Alaska. They can be found at elevations from sea level to at least 2250 metres.  Although they graze on algae and aquatic plants as tadpoles, an adult western toad feeds on flying insects, beetles, ants, slugs and earthworms.  They are in turn eaten by garter snakes, birds, and other amphibians.
Western Toad populations have suffered significant losses in recent years and are on the provincial Yellow List (considered a species of conservation concern).  They are threatened by habitat loss, road kill, pollution, climate change, introduction of aquatic predators (e.g. stocking lakes with fish), and the spread of diseases.
While it is interesting to observe these fascinating creatures, it is important to respect them and their homes by leaving them in the wild.  Just a few days ago, some vacationers arrived in Tofino with an aquarium full of Western Toads they had caught in Barkley Sound.  Oh no!!! Disease and fungus transfer is a big deal in the amphibian world, as well as an accidental introduction of the invasive American Bullfrog.  Please help spread the word that frogs and toads are best observed in their own homes and that moving them around can have a devastating impact on their populations.
Help us to protect these and other amphibians by learning more about their ecology and sharing your knowledge with others.  A great way to learn more is to check out a local field guide (such as ‘Amphibians of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia’ by Corkran and Thoms) and by reading about BC’s Frogwatch Program online (www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/frogwatch).  We’ d love to hear your sightings and stories of these or any amphibian, so send us an email here at the Raincoast Interpretive Centre (info@raincoasteducation.org) or post a comment on the blog!

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