Some animals are well recognized as being undoubtedly Canadian. Most of those animals are on our money, and include beavers, moose, and Canadian geese. But did you know there’s a Canadian toad? I vote we put this guy on some coins!
Despite the name, Canadian toads aren’t found just in Canada — it’s pretty rare to see animals that respect international borders. They live in the southern parts of the Canadian prairies and the northern midwest of the US. They can mainly be found in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Montana and North and South Dakota. Canadian toads like to live near water, such as streams, lakes and wetlands.
Canadian toads are reasonably big, with females reaching 7.6 cm in length and males growing up to 6.9 cm. They are… very toady looking toads. By that I mean Canadian toads are brown and covered in ‘warts’. Pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a toad.
Due to the cold climate in which they live, Canadian toads hibernate during winter to survive. The toads start digging holes in the ground at the end of August, and dig deeper as temperatures get colder. Many toads may share the same underground area, creating mima mounds which can dot the landscape. The toads favour one spot, returning to their burrow year after year. They emerge in spring when the soil thaws and the toads are able to dig through the dirt.
Reproduction in Canadian toads begins once they have exited their burrows, usually in April or May. The toads mate in the water, with the female laying her eggs in the water and the male fertilizing them as they are laid. These toads are pretty fecund, with females producing 6000 eggs in a single mating and up to 20,000 in a breeding season. Tadpoles hatch from the eggs after four to five days, and it takes them two to three months to metamorphose into adults.
Canadian toads have a few different defence strategies against predators. They tend to be nocturnal in warm weather, when predators would likely be out and about during the day. Their rough, warty skin and brown colour helps them blend in with their surroundings. And finally, these toads produce a toxic secretion from their parotoid glands, making them unpleasant for animals that try and eat them.
I really do think we should make the Canadian toad one of our national animals. After all, I’ve often considered just burying myself in the ground for seven months during Canadian winters.