How do warm winters affect hibernating toads?

Toads spend the winter underground, but what happens when our winters are warm?

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Toads use their back legs to ‘knead’ their bodies into the soil, submerging themselves completely when the days get shorter and nights turn colder.

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There is increasing concern that this could pose problems for the animals in milder conditions.

Toads are cold-blooded, and in warmer winters their bodies metabolise at a faster rate, burning up fuel that would otherwise be used to prepare for spring-time mating.

Indeed there is some evidence that warmer winters are already having an impact.

In one long-term study involving a large population of toads in the south of England, higher temperatures correlated with a reduction in body size in females, resulting in fewer eggs being laid.

How the UK’s frogs and newts might be affected is as yet unclear.


Do you have a wildlife question you’d like answered? Email your question to wildquestions@immediate.co.uk or post it to Q&A, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Immediate Media Company, Eagle House, Bristol, BS1 4ST.

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Main image: Common toad, Bufo bufo, adult in grass meadow, Yorkshire, UK. © Mark Hamblin/Getty