North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Oak Toad

Scientific Name: Bufo (Anaxyrus) quercicus
Classification: Nongame species
Abundance: Found only in Coastal Plain (blue)

Photo by Jeff Hall









The oak toad is one of four toad species in the Bufonidae family, native to North Carolina, and is the smallest of the state's toad species. It may be brown, gray or nearly black, often with scattered reddish warts. Its belly is usually mottled with dark pigment. Juveniles of the state's three larger toads, American toad, Fowler's toad and southern toad, are often mistaken for oak toads. However, oak toads can be distinguished from the other toads by a prominent whitish, yellowish or orange stripe running from the tip of the snout down the entire length of its back and the large dark spots on its back that are arranged in three to five pairs.

Oak toads are found only in the Coastal Plain and live in pine flatwoods, savannas, sandhills and some pocosins (shrub bogs) and maritime forests. Adults are found on land and often are active by day.

Oak toads breed from April to August, usually in temporary wetlands, such as shallow ponds, ditches, rain pools or flooded agricultural fields. Females lay several hundred eggs. Unlike the long strings of eggs laid by American, Fowler's and southern toads, oak toad eggs are deposited singly or in small strands of up to six to eight eggs, either free-floating or attached to vegetation. Tadpoles develop in about four to eight weeks.

The oak toad is classified as a nongame species with no open season. It is unlawful for any person to take, or have in possession, any nongame mammal or bird unless that person has a collection license or is collecting fewer than 5 reptiles or fewer than 25 amphibians that are not endangered, threatened, or special concerned species.

There are no reported problems with this species. 

Once abundant in many parts of the Coastal Plain, oak toads have declined dramatically in recent years. Habitat destruction is one reason; however, it doesn't account for their disappearance in areas where the habitat is still good. Other factors contributing to their delcine may include disease, acidification of breeding sites due to fire suppression and predation from the red imported fire ant.

Frogs and toads can be monitored fairly easily in a variety of ways. One way is through frog call monitoring. The North Carolina Calling Amphibian Survey Program attempts to do just that by corralling data collected by volunteers across the state that monitors specific frog call routes. Each species of frog and toad has a unique call that is distinguishable from others.  Some are more difficult for humans to separate than others, but the frogs know who’s who!  Learn your frog calls, and you too can distinguish who’s calling in the ponds.  Another way to monitor frogs and toads is by looking for egg masses deposited in wetlands and/or by looking for tadpoles in those same wetlands. Different frogs breed at different times of the year, so when to look for eggs is dependent on the species of interest. Eggs typically hatch within a couple weeks of being deposited, so there is a fairly short window for detection. Frog eggs can sometimes be identified to family, but are somewhat tricky to identify to species level.  Tadpole identification can be similarly tricky, so learning and listening to frog calls is definitely the easiest method for determining what frogs and toads are using a wetland. Tadpoles are a little easier to monitor, as most species have tadpoles present in wetlands for longer periods of time. This is, again, variable by species.  Most species have tadpole stages that last at least several months, but the range in timing for different species is everything from a couple of weeks to several years.  The smaller frog and toad species tend to have shorter tadpole cycles, while the larger frogs and toads tend to have longer times to metamorphosis.