Toads are cold-blooded creatures. They are ectothermic, meaning they can’t regulate their internal temperature and instead react to their environment. Toads live everywhere except Antarctica. They aren’t picky and make their home just about anywhere. There are also about 300 or more species of toads. Interestingly, toads are frogs, but not all frog species are toads.
It’s confusing when researching toads, but there are some differences. For example, most frogs live near moist and wet areas, including ponds and marshes. Frogs are also more slender and smooth; however, there are exceptions. Toads also typically grow warts and have a rough texture. However, unlike some frost-tolerant frogs, toads cannot survive a freeze.
So, where do toads go in the winter? How do they survive harsh winters and snow? Keep reading to learn more about these amphibians.
Where Do Toads Go in the Winter?
Unlike mammals and some other species of animals, toads don’t migrate south. Instead, they tough out winters using their responses to the cold. Toads can’t survive below freezing temperatures, not without protecting themselves. From September to October, before the first freeze of the year, toads prepare and burrow deeply in the ground. They burrow at least three feet deep in soft soil, mulch, and compost for warmth.
Toads brumate, which is sometimes confused for hibernation. However, brumation is involuntary. When animals enter brumation mode, they slow their breathing, needing less oxygen. They also feast in the seasons leading up to winter and store fat for survival. Unlike hibernation, toads can wake up a few times during winter when temperatures steadily increase above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Toads also change their burrows and brumation location frequently, but sometimes they return to the same place.
Toads are also not picky. They brumate anywhere, including under large rocks, rodent burrows, rotting logs, and banks near a stream of water. While it’s been believed toads brumate alone, one study discovered a group of 600 Canadian toads burrowed together in a sandy hillside in Wood Buffalo National Park.
What Happens if You Disturb a Hibernating Toad?
Unless you are digging or specifically on the hunt for sleeping toads, you’ll unlikely find a toad during winter. If you do, leave them where you found them. Toads are not picky animals. They make their home anywhere, which sometimes includes your favorite container in your garden. If you uncover a brumating toad, cover them back up and leave them in place. If they are exposed to below freezing temperatures, they can freeze to death and die. Sadly, not all hibernating toads survive winter, even when burrowed deeply in the ground. Sometimes, brumating toads wake up temporarily if the weather is warm enough and hunt for food before burrowing again.
Do Toads Hibernate in Captivity?
Although brumation is involuntary, it’s only triggered by declining temperatures nearing winter. Pet toads live in controlled environments, typically with heat lamps. It’s unlikely your toad will hibernate in captivity unless you force them to by manipulating the temperature. This is dangerous, though, as freezing temperatures can kill your pet toad. However, during winter months, some toads will eat less.
Do Wild Toads Make Good Pets?
Pet toads are some of the easiest animals to take care of, but this doesn’t mean they are perfect for everyone. These slimy amphibians require specific heat and humidity levels and a balanced diet. Wild toads shouldn’t be kept as pets. If you find one near your home, leave them be! Toads actually symbolize good luck. They also appear in yards when your plants are thriving and bringing insects, a toad’s dinner. If you purchase a toad from a store, ensure you have an appropriately sized terrarium and a strong but safe UV light.
How To Help Toads Survive the Winter
Wild toads need soft and loose soil to burrow and survive winter. While they can find a location without help, you can create a hibernaculum to make it easier and keep these beneficial animals in your yard. A hibernaculum is a shelter occupied by animals during the winter while in hibernation or brumation. Amend your soil with nutrients and plenty of mulch and compost. This loosens the soil, which makes it easier for toads to burrow under the soil. As they burrow and push soil out of the way, the soil falls on top of them, covering the entrance of the winter burrow, and entrapping heat. You can also set up large containers with loose soil, compost, and newspapers. They need to be large enough that a toad can burrow at least three feet deep.
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- The National Wildlife Federation, Available here: https://www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2006/Backyard-Houses-for-Toads