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What Is an Oak Toad?

L. Baran
L. Baran

The oak toad is the smallest type of toad found in the United States and Canada, with most growing to just 1.75 inches (4.4 cm). It has brown and black spots and is characterized by a light stripe running down the middle of its back. The scientific name of this species is bufo quercicus, and the average life span is four years.

The preferred habitat of the oak toad is a dense forest or wooded area. Pine and oak forests appear to be the most popular to these small toads. For this reason, they are most prevalent in the southern states. They typically hide under logs, bark, large fallen leaves or other forest material. Their black and brown spots aid in camouflaging them from predators such as snakes, racoons and crows.

Oak toads may eat spiders.
Oak toads may eat spiders.

Breeding amongst the species begins with a mating call from the male oak toad. This call is distinctive due to the enlarged sac containing the male's vocal chords. The sac lengthens to produce a chirping sound unique to this type of toad, almost mimicking a young bird. If a female is enticed, breeding usually occurs in areas where water has collected after rainfall. The female will lay approximately 400 eggs and attach them to plants surrounding the pond or other flooded area.

The diet of these small North American toads is quite varied. Oak toads enjoy ants, beetles, spiders, scorpions and mites. When in dangerous situations or confronted by potential predators, the toad will use what is known as the unken reflex. It enlarges its body and secretes a toxic substance from its glands. Parasites and destruction of habitat are the other common reasons for premature death in the oak toad population.

Seasonal behavior of the oak toad is not fully understood, but it is believed that most will hibernate in the colder months of December to March. During excessively rainy days and months, these amphibians may move short distances away from their established homes to find better shelter and warmth. While wet areas are important for breeding, the toad prefers a dry home for the remainder of the year.

While most American toads are nocturnal, the oak toad is quite active during the daylight hours. Unlike similar looking frogs, toads have short back legs and lack teeth. They move about their environment by hopping short distances rather than jumping. As juveniles, toads and frogs look very similar, but the differences become more obvious as they age.

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    • Oak toads may eat spiders.
      Oak toads may eat spiders.