Why Do Toads Burrow in the Summer?

Toads are a common amphibian, and there are several different types that can be found around North America and other countries. Each of these types of toads is equipped to handle the changing seasons through a number of survival adaptations. One of the most common activities people notices these amphibians doing in the summer is burrowing. 

Why Do Toads Burrow in the Summer?

Toads burrow underground in the summer as a means of survival. Burrowing not only keeps toads safe from the summer heat and sun but also allows them to stay hidden from predators that roam around during the day. Toads can quickly bury themselves underground thanks to their long back legs. 

Burrowing for Survival

western toad

When roads burrow underground in the summer they are able to escape the high temperatures that accompany the season. The heat and sun can dry out toads, causing them to die, but burrowing is a way to prevent this. Toads are cold-blooded and can’t survive the high heat that most areas experience during the summer. When they burrow, they can reach the moisture still in the soil, and escape the sunlight. 

This act is called estivation, which is similar to the process of hibernation. While burrowed, a toad’s heart rate will slow down, allowing them to survive a long period of no movement. Depending on the region, some toads may estivate for weeks at a time. This also helps toads survive during periods of drought. 

Places Toads Burrow

Eastern spadefoot toad | image by Northeast Coastal & Barrier Network via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Toads will typically burrow in the ground or sand, but they have been known to burrow in various types of places. Toads can burrow in the crevices of trees or rocks, in empty burrows made by other animals, or in piles of leaf litter. The place a toad chooses to burrow depends on the area and environment they live in. Some types of toads have been known to burrow at the bottoms of lakes or ponds. 

Popular toad burrowing spots are;

  • In gardens
  • At the bottom of ponds
  • In logs
  • Under rocks
  • Under leaf litter 

Using The Same Location 

When a toad finds a place to burrow for the first time in the summer it will typically burrow in this same location more than once. Toads like to use the same burrows multiple times, sometimes for weeks at a time. They often return at the same time as well. Toads like to stick to a routine, and they will stay in their habitat unless forced to move.

Just as toads burrow in the same location, they will also stick to the same hunting spots. After a few weeks of one routine, toads will find another location for hunting and burrowing. They could end up moving locations a couple of times in one summer. Toads are predictable amphibians because of the routines they like to stick to. 

What Makes The Summer Dangerous

The summer season can be dangerous to toads for a number of reasons. Not only is the heat and sun deadly, but various predators are active and prepared to strike. The best defense mechanism that toads have for these dangers is the ability to burrow. 

Heat and Sun

Summer heat and summer sun are deadly for cold-blooded amphibians like toads and frogs. They can easily dry out if exposed for too long. Toads need moisture to survive, and once they have dried out there is not much to be done.

Just like other cold-blooded animals, toads do need small amounts of sunshine. However, they can only withstand it for a few minutes before they need to burrow or find a cool and shady spot. 

Predators 

Plenty of dangerous predators will prey on toads during the summer. They can fall victim to attacks from birds like crows, hawks, seagulls, blue jays, and more. Toads are not aggressive but they have other defense mechanisms for predators.

Not only do they burrow when predators are most active, but they also have glands on their skin that release poison. This poison is released if the toad is picked up in a predator’s mouth. It is not deadly but causes most predators to let go. 

Common predators of toads include;

  • Snakes
  • Birds 
  • Raccoons
  • Dogs
  • Coyotes 
  • Weasels 

Other Ways Toads Survive Summer

In addition to burrowing and poison glands, toads have adapted other ways to survive during the summer. These adaptations allow various types of toads to thrive during the hottest months of the year. 

Moisture 

The endangered Houston toad | image by USFWS Endangered Species via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

produce moisture through their skin, which helps them keep from drying out in the sun. This lets them enjoy enough time in the heat to warm up without drying out completely.

This moisture comes from mucus glands under the toad’s skin. Toads will also hang out near ponds and other sources of water for frequent drinking and swimming to stay cool. 

Diet

Toads will eat nearly anything they come across, and this versatile diet allows them to survive during the changing seasons. The size of a toad will also impact what they eat. 

A toad diet can include;

Toads use sticky tongues to catch their prey and strong jaws to chew them. Larger toads, like cane toads, are capable of eating rats and mice. Toads will actively seek out prey, in addition to sitting and waiting for an unsuspecting insect to crawl by. 

Night Activity 

During the summer toads will be most active at night. This helps them avoid the summer heat and many dangerous predators. Toads also like to hunt at night when there are plenty of bugs out and about. Since toads are not active for most of the day, they can stay safe from drying out in the sun or getting eaten by a roaming predator. 

Conclusion 

Toads change their behavior throughout the seasons so they are best equipped to survive. In the summer, toads will not only burrow to survive the heat but also change when they are active and stick to a more predictable routine. They also utilize defense systems to keep from being eaten by predators.