How do warm winters affect hibernating toads?

Expert Jules Howard answers your wild question


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


Toads spend the winter underground.

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

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.

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