Ecological Services
Southwest Region
 

Houston Toad (Anaxyrus houstonensis)


Houston toad
Photo credit: Paige Najvar/USFWS

The Houston toad was one of the first amphibians federally listed as an endangered species. It was listed on October 13, 1970 (35 FR 16047–16048) under the Endangered Species Act of 1996, which was a precursor to the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Critical Habitat for the Houston toad was designated in portions of Bastrop and Burleson Counties, Texas on January 31, 1978 (43 FR 4022 – 4026). The Houston toad is also listed as endangered by the State of Texas.

The Houston toad is a small, greenish-brown, speckled amphibian that can be distinguished from other toads by the high-pitched, trill-sounding call that males emit during breeding choruses each spring. It depends on the forests of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) and various hardwood trees and sandy soils it inhabits for migrating, hibernating, and feeding. Shallow, temporary water sources (ephemeral ponds) serve as breeding sites.

This species was listed as endangered in large part because of landscape fragmentation and destruction caused by agricultural conversion and urban development within the Houston toad’s forested habitat. Given ongoing habitat loss throughout its range, recent Texas drought conditions, impacts from red-imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) and feral hogs (Sus scrofa), and dwindling populations, this species could now face an imminent extinction risk in the wild.

For more information on Houston toad biology and life history, see our Houston toad biology page.


Houston Toad Habitat Management Guidelines

Houston toad habitat management guidelines were developed to provide guidance on practices that can be used to manage and restore habitat for the Houston toad. They are also meant to serve as recommendations to avoid or minimize impacts to the Houston toad while conducting these activities.

Houston toad habitat management guidelines (128 KB, PDF)

Please note that some of these recommendations may require a section 10(a)(1)(A) endangered species recovery permit. For more information, see our Scientific Permits page.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can you provide a map of areas known to be occupied by the Houston toad?
How do I know if Houston toads occur on my property?
Do I need a permit to survey for Houston toads?
Do I need a permit to build on my property within known Houston toad habitat?

Can you provide a map of areas known to be occupied by the Houston toad?

A map depicting the presence or absence of Houston toads from any given location at less than a range-wide scale is not available.  Although they are considered rare, they may occur anywhere within their known range (Range Map).  They are typically found within areas of suitable habitat, but they have been known to move great distances (several miles) from their natal ponds.  They have also been known to move across habitat areas that are believed to be inhospitable.  Furthermore, their presence at any location where they have previously been documented has been known to fluctuate from year to year.  For these reasons, it would be extremely difficult to definitively rule them out from occurring at any given location within their range from year to year.

How do I know if Houston toads occur on my property?

Many people think the toads they see in their yards are Houston toads.  In fact, toads found in a front or back yard in Texas are usually Gulf Coast toads (Incilius valliceps [formerly Bufo valliceps valliceps]), which are much more common and have a broader range than Houston toads.  Gulf Coast toads are known to inhabit a wide variety of habitat areas.  In contrast, the Houston toad is a habitat specialist, known primarily to occur in areas with deep sandy soils and forested canopy cover.  One morphological difference in the two species is the color of the throat sac.  Male Houston toads have a dark or blue-colored throat sac, which is particularly evident when they are chorusing.  The throat sacs in Gulf Coast toads are solid tan in color.

With the above in mind, if your property is located within the known range of the Houston toad (see Range Map) and the habitat on your property is consistent with the habitat description provided on our Houston toad biology page, it is possible Houston toads may occur on your property.  However, their occurrence cannot be verified without chorus surveys. Landowners may choose to educate themselves on the Houston toad’s distinctive breeding call, which can only be heard on usually just a few nights during the Houston toad’s breeding season lasting from January through June each year. To hear a Houston toad call, click on the following link:   http://www.californiaherps.com/noncal/misc/miscfrogs/pages/a.houstonensis.sounds.html

Do I need a permit to survey for Houston toads?

If any of your survey activities have the potential to result in "take" of Houston toads, you may apply for a permit. “Take” that could occur in the process of conducting Houston toad surveys include crushing individuals; compaction of habitat; disturbance of cover objects; harm or harassment that may occur with the introduction of noise, light, chemicals, and biological substances into the environment . In addition, other actions that would cause individuals to flee, seek shelter, or alter or cease normal foraging, anti-predation, or reproductive behavior may also cause "take."

For more information, please refer to the “United States Fish and Wildlife Service Section 10(a)(1)(A) Scientific Permit Requirements For Conducting Houston Toad Presence/Absence Surveys.”

Do I need a permit to build on my property within known Houston toad habitat?

If your property is located within the Houston toad’s range, particularly if the property contains suitable Houston toad habitat, an “incidental take permit” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may be advisable.  The ultimate decision to apply for a permit is yours.  Individuals engaged in activities that have the potential to “take” listed species are responsible for determining whether the likelihood of “take” is great enough to need a permit. For more information see our Habitat Conservation Plans web page.

For landowners in Bastrop County, there is a programmatic Habitat Conservation Plan that simplifies the process for obtaining authorization for “incidental take” under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act for a variety of activities and provides regulatory certainty for local landowners and other community interests. The permit allows Bastrop County to issue certificates of participation to landowners for harming the toad or its habitat while engaging in legal land development, agricultural or forestry practices, wildlife management, and certain other land-use activities.  For more information see the website: http://www.co.bastrop.tx.us/default.aspx?name=ds.lost_pines


Other websites with information about Houston toads:

Houston Zoo webpage

Houston toad Facebook page

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Houston toad page - https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/htoad/

Bastrop County Lost Pines Habitat Conservation Plan

 

 

More Info


Houston toad biology

Frequently asked questions

Houston toad survey guidlelines

Houston toad habitat management guidelines

Houston Toad Five-Year Review

Other Links

   

 

Last updated: May 14, 2020