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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Anaxyrus woodhousii woodhousii - Rocky Mountain Toad

(=Bufo woodhousii woodhousii)


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Rocky mountain toad Range Map
Range in California: Red

Dot-locality range map


Listen to this toad:


speaker
One short call



observation link





Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad
Adult, Riverside County Adult, Riverside County Adult, Riverside County
Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad
Adult, Imperial County near Colorado River north of Yuma
Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad
Adult, Riverside County Adult, Riverside County Adult underside
Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad
Adult, Imperial County Noxious white secretion from
paratoid gland.

Rocky Mountain Toads From Outside California
Rocky mountain toad Rocky Mountain Toad Rocky Mountain Toad
Adult, Yuma County, Arizona

Sub-adult, Franklin County, Washington Adult, Franklin County, Washington
Calling Males and Tadpoles
Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad
Adult male calling at night from the shore of breeding pond, Riverside County. Adult male calling at night from the shore of breeding pond, Riverside County. Adult male calling at night from the shore of breeding pond, Riverside County.
  Rocky mountain toad tadpoles  
  Tadpoles, Riverside County

 
Identification Details and Comparison With Sympatric A. cognatus
Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad
Elongated paratoid glands
behind the eyes
Cranial crests between eyes Digging Spade on hind foot
  Rocky mountain toad  
  Comparison of Anaxyrus woodhousii on left and Anaxyrus cognatus on right.
The cranial crests of B. cognatus point inward at the front, often coming together.
The parotoid glands of A. woodhousii are more elongated than on A. cognatus.


 
Habitat
Rocky mountain toad habitat Rocky mountain toad habitat Rocky mountain toad habitat
Breeding habitat - irrigation pond in orchard, Riverside County Habitat, agricultural irrigation canal
Imperial County
Habitat, agricultural rrigation pond, Riverside County
Rocky mountain toad habitat Rocky mountain toad habitat  
Breeding habitat, Imperial County Habitat, Imperial County farmland  

More pictures of this toad from Washington are on our Northwest Herps page.


Short Videos
Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad Rocky mountain toad
360 degrees of toad sitting on a road at night. It wouldn't move, so the camera did.
Rocky Mountain Toads calling at night on a pond in Franklin County, Washington. More Rocky Mountain Toads calling at night on a pond in Franklin County, Washington.
Rocky Mountain Toad Rocky mountain toad
 
Two calling males pulled from a breeding pond in Riverside County are shown giving weak release calls before being returned to the water. A Rocky Mountain Toad gives a release call when he is picked up.  
Description

Size
Adults are 1 3/4 - 5 inches from snout to vent ( 4.4 - 12.7 cm).
Appearance
A large toad with dry, warty skin. Prominent cranial crests, sometimes with a boss between them, which contact the elongated, divergent parotoid glands. Gray, brownish, olive, greenish, yellow above, with dark blotches, a whitish stripe on the middle of the back to the snout, and a network of black and yellow on the rear of the thighs. Below is pale cream or beige, with or withouts dark spots. Young may hve no dorsal stripe. Male's throat is sooty.
Voice  (Listen)
This toad's call sounds like a muted sheep or calf bleating, or a snore, lasting 1 - 4 seconds. Calls from dusk to dawn from quiet waters of ponds, streams, irrigation ditches, and marshes.
Behavior
Nocturnal, remaining underground in the daytime, but occasionally seen moving about in daylight or resting at the edge of breeding pools in the breeding season. This species hibernates from about October to February over most of its range and may also cease activity during the winter in California.
As most toads do for defense, this toad relies on parotoid glands and warts which can secrete a poison that deters some predators.
Typical of most toads, A. woodhousii moves relatively slowly, often using a walking or crawling motion along with short hops.
Diet
Diet probably consists of a wide variety of invertebrates. Typical of most frogs, the prey is located by vision, then a large sticky tongue is used to catch the prey and bring it into the mouth to eat.
Prey is located by vision, then the toad lunges with a large sticky tongue to catch the prey and bring it into the mouth to eat.
Reproduction and Young
Reproduction is aquatic. Fertilization is external.  Throughout its range, mating and egg-laying occurs from February to September, usually during or after rains. In California, breeding occurs at least from March through August. (Personal observation.) Males are presumed to reach reproductive maturity in one year, females in two years. Males call from various locations near breeding ponds - from shallow water, on dry shore edge, and on land near water.
Eggs are laid in long strings and attached to vegetation in shallow water.
Tadpoles are black, and often form large aggregations. Tadpoles metamorphose is 5 - 8 weeks.
Hybridizes with many other species. Species in our area that it is known to hybridize elsewhere are A. punctatus, A. alvarius, A. microscaphus, and A. cognatus.
Range
In California, the subspecies Anaxyrus woodhousii woodhousii is found in the southeast - along the Colorado River, in the Imperial Valley, and north to the Palm Springs area where it may be continuing to expand its range to the west.

A population was found in 2012 in Inyo County on the Amargosa River south of Death Valley. Another Inyo County population was found in 2013 in Tecopa in the drainage to the east of the Amargosa River location.

Outside of California, it occurs in isolated populations in southern Washington, extreme east Oregon and part of western Idaho, southern Nevada, eastern Montana, North Dakota, south to Texas.

The species Anaxyrus woodhousii occurs throughout much of the United States and north-central Mexico.
Habitat
Throughout its range, this toad inhabits a wide variety of habitats - irrigation ditches, temporary pools, moist meadows, grassland, ponds, lakes, reservoirs, sagebrush flats, woods, desert streams, farms, river floodplains, irrigation canals, irrigated fields and golf courses. In California, mostly found in irrigated agricultural areas, but may be spreading into irrigated areas in the Coachella Valley. Prefers sandy areas. From below sea level to 8,500 ft. (2600 m.)
Taxonomic Notes
Anaxyrus woodhousii taxonomy is undergoing some changes. Some authorities do not recognize any subspecies of Anaxyrus woodhousii, referring to this toad as Woodhouse's Toad. Others recognize several subspecies.

Formerly included in the genus Bufo. In 2006, Frost et al replaced the long-standing genus Bufo in North America with Anaxyrus, restricting Bufo to the eastern hemisphere. Bufo is still used in most existing references.


Some authors* include the toads inhabiting the southern part of the state with the subspecies A. w. australis (not the subspecies A. w. woodhousii, which we show them to be here.) They also include the toads inhabiting the area near the Nevada border with the subspecies A. w. woodhousii. Old field guides and museum records that include subspecies information, list the southern populations as A. w. woodhousii, but some recent research analyzing advertisement call variation ** has indicated that the southern California toads are more closely related to those in south-central Arizona, which are A. w. australis. (It does seem likely that this subspecies could have entered California through the Gila River drainage.)

* Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Amphibians of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

** Brian K. Sullivan, Keith B. Malmos, Mac F. Given. Systematics of the Bufo woodhousii Complex (Anura: Bufonidae): Advertisement Call Variation.  Copeia, Vol. 1996, No. 2 (May 16, 1996), pp. 274-280

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
In some areas this toad is benefiting from water impoundments for agriculture where other native species are in decline.

The Amargosa River population is of concern because this puts the toads about 90 miles south in the same river system as the very localized Amargosa Toad - A. nelsoni which is only found in a 10 mile stretch of the Amargosa River in Oasis Valley, Nevada.

Taxonomy
Family Bufonidae True Toads
Genus Anaxyrus North American Toads
Species woodhousii Woodhouse's Toad
Subspecies woodhousii Rocky Mountain Toad

Original Description
Bufo woodhousii - Girard, 1854 - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 7, p. 86

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Bufo - toad
Anaxyrus -
Greek - A king or chief
woodhousii
- honors Woodhouse, Samuel W.

Taken in part from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Alternate Names
Bufo woodhousii - Woodhouse's Toad

Bufo woodhousii woodhousii

Related or Similar California Frogs
Anaxyrus cognatus
Anaxyrus boreas halophilus
Anaxyrus punctatus


More Information and References
Natureserve Explorer

California Dept. of Fish and Game

AmphibiaWeb

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.Corkran, Charlotte & Chris Thoms. Amphibians of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Lone Pine Publishing, 1996.

Jones, Lawrence L. C. , William P. Leonard, Deanna H. Olson, editors. Amphibians of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle Audubon Society, 2005.

Leonard et. al. Amphibians of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society, 1993.

Nussbaum, R. A., E. D. Brodie Jr., and R. M. Storm. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. Moscow, Idaho: University Press of Idaho, 1983.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Amphibians of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Elliott, Lang, Carl Gerhardt, and Carlos Davidson. Frogs and Toads of North America, a Comprehensive Guide to their Identification, Behavior, and Calls. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

Lannoo, Michael (Editor). Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. University of California Press, June 2005.

Wright, Anna. Handbook of Frogs and Toads of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press, 1949.

Davidson, Carlos. Booklet to the CD Frog and Toad Calls of the Pacific Coast - Vanishing Voices. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, 1995.

Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List which is published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This toad is not included on the Special Animals List, meaning there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California according to the Dept. of Fish and Game.


Organization
Status Listing
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
Natureserve Global Conservation Status Ranks
World Conservation Union - IUCN Red List





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