Fowlers toad (Anaxyrus fowlerii)

Species Status: Endangered in Canada
Action Required:
Reintroduction, population augmentation

Fowler’s toad is facing a severe risk of disappearing from Canada. Today, only a few hundred breeding individuals are thought to remain in small, widely scattered populations on the shores of Lake Erie.

The most distinctive feature of Fowler’s toads is their smell, reminiscent of unroasted peanuts. You can also identify the males by their uniquely shrill mating call when they gather at aquatic breeding sites in late spring. The larval period takes 40 to 60 days, and newly metamorphosed toadlets emerge in midsummer. Fowler’s toads grow up fast, as most individuals reach adult size in one year. Although they can live three to five years, annual mortality is high at all life stages. A nocturnal species, they are most active during the evening.

Fowler’s toads are adapted to sand dune and lakeshore habitat. They need both aquatic and terrestrial habitats to support their complex life cycle. Eggs and tadpoles need sparsely vegetated ponds, sandy-bottomed pools, shallow rocky shoals or rocky pools. Meanwhile, the adults live in well-drained sandy soils or sand dunes, sandy beaches, sandy deciduous woodland and rocky, poorly vegetated areas. Both juveniles and adults hibernate in sand dunes. All these habitats are unstable and vulnerable to erosion, sand deposition, storms and fluctuating water levels.

Fowler’s toads inhabit much of North America east of the Great Plains and south of the Great Lakes. However, they occur in Canada only along the northern shore of Lake Erie in extreme southern Ontario.

In Canada, Fowler’s toads are in serious risk of being completely wiped out. Their biggest threat is the loss and degradation of shoreline beaches and dune habitat. One of the biggest problems is the spread of the invasive common reed Phragmites australis. It forms dense stands and lowers water levels, eventually drying out wetlands.

Other culprits include shore development and artificial coastline stabilization projects, including the construction of breakwalls, roads, parking lots, piers and groynes. Beach maintenance activities such as grading, grooming and clearing algae with grooming machines or bulldozers are also major problems, while traffic and recreational use of the beaches and dunes add to the habitat loss. Finally, agricultural runoff, industrial pollution and other invasive species such as zebra mussels represent significant threats.

Recommended Recovery Actions

The Ontario Recovery Strategy recommends a number of measures, including improving habitat, determining the feasibility of reintroducing Fowler’s toads to suitable areas, and re-establishing populations where feasible. One of the keys to reintroducing Fowler’s toads is understanding how to increase toadlet populations from existing breeding sites.

What we are doing

Find out how Wildlife Preservation Canada helps save Canada’s reptiles and amphibians, including Fowler’s toads, and how you can make a difference.