Natterjack Toad Care Sheet


Introduction

The natterjack toad, known by its Latin name Epidalea calamita , inhabits various parts of Europe, for example France, Spain and Portugal. These toads are often found in sandy expanses or vast heathlands making them a species particularly fond of drier climates. In terms of size, adults average heights of 6.5 cm. A key factor in distinguishing this species from common toads is the yellow line down the centre of the back, as well as the parallel paratoid glands. Generally, these toads have short legs which allows them to have a characteristic hopping motion, a distinctive gait to other toad species. This species has a uniquely loud and distinctive mating call which is amplified by a single vocal sac located under the chin of the male. Hence, the name ‘natterjack’ meaning simply ‘the chattering toad’.

This is a species that is only present in the UK due to dedicated work as a part of a reintroduction programme, therefore it is highly protected. It is illegal to catch or disturb a British natterjack toad, but perfectly legal to own captive bred European specimens. All our natterjack toads are captive bred European specimens.

A natterjack toad resting near a pond.

Feeding

These toads enjoy a varied diet consisting of crickets, mealworms, calci worms, spiders, woodlice or any commercially available feeder insect.  It is important to gut-load the feeder insects with fruit, vegetables and dandelions as the nutrients from the food will go straight into the toads. Dusting the feeder insects is also an important step to ensure your toad maintains healthy levels of vitamins and calcium. We encourage people to establish natural colonies of insects and invertebrates into the enclosure which will ensure your toad can get an unlimited supply of a varied diet, at no extra cost. Before the toad goes into hibernation, it is advised to feed it wax worms or any other type of high-fat food to help cope with the cooler temperatures in winter.

Housing

Natterjack toads will really appreciate a vivarium with plenty of space to explore, dig, swim, lay and bask. Therefore, we recommend a vivarium of size 1 m  (wide)  x  0.5 m (deep) for a pair or small group. The enclosure should also have 40-50 cm of soil for the toad to burrow down and brumate as well as adequate space for a pond for the toads to lay their spawn. A variety of plant species, logs and stones will help create a more natural, realistic environment for the toad to enjoy. This also makes for great habitats for insects such as ants, spiders and woodlouse: it’s your own microbiome! Remember, the larger the enclosure, the happier the animal, so don’t hesitate to make a larger enclosure. At Celtic Reptile & Amphibian we house all of our animals outdoors in greenhouse enclosures or outdoor vivaria, as this allows vital exposure to the sun and thus, the absorption of UVB light. Natterjack toads particularly like a warm, dry climate and so it is important to reduce the exposure to water.  In fact they inhabit both sand dunes and heathlands, as mentioned before. No external heating supply or UVB bulb is required when outdoors in the UK or Europe. This ensures the animals live the most naturalistic and healthy life possible which can be seen from the stunning colours of our animals! In terms of temperature and humidity, this toad is rather hardy and so can withstand temperatures as low as 10 C and as high as 40 C , with a happy medium of around 25 C. This species loves to bask and so basking temperatures may need to be higher than the rest of the enclosure, however you can achieve this by ensuring your enclosure is on the south facing wall with no sunlight obstruction.

Habitat of the natterjack toad: Sand dunes of the Sefton Coast, UK.

 

Breeding

Mating occurs within the spring months, particularly in late April and later. Due to the fact that in the wild these species often live in sparse populations, their calls can be extremely loud! Each female will lay strings of eggs in shallow, warm pools of water. Natterjack toad females have been known to spawn twice a year to compensate for the frequent death of tadpoles due to them being spawned in temporary bodies of water.