Why are there toads in my window wells?

While working in the yard this weekend, I noticed there was a toad down in one of my window wells. Upon closer examinations, there was not one toad, but SIX toads! A quick check of a few other window wells turned up one more.

What’s the deal? I could see one stray toad hopping in and not being able to get out, but seven?!? These guys were all the same species - light tan, with darker brown spots & stripes. Did they indeed get stuck in my window wells, and if I didn’t rescue them (well, at least some of them) would they die? Or are they somehow living & breeding down there?

BTW, I live in Colorado, and don’t remember ever seeing toads around my house before. I would’ve thought the lack of water and extreme heat lately would cook 'em. I guess not.

I grew up in a Chicago suburb, and one of the biggest delights of childhood was finding toads in the window wells. We collected dozens and dozens of them.
Thee environment is ideal for them. They like to hide under the leaves that collect in there, down where the soil is damp and cool (try looking under the leaves- you’ll find more toads burrowed down into the dirt with just their noses sticking out), and there are plenty of bugs for them to eat. The hotter the weather, the more likely your toads will seek out a dark, cool place. Plus, there are other toads for socialization, if that’s important to them, and very little risk of being stepped on or run over by a lawnmower. I think a toad could live in a window well all its life and be perfectly happy except for one thing: they didn’t seem to breed in there. As far as I can tell, toads need water for the tadpoles to survive, and I never saw a tadpole in a window well.

Now that I think about it, certain window wells consistently turned up large numbers of toads, whereas other window wells rarely contained any. This would indicate that toads preferred some locations over others and either went in there on purpose or were able to leave window wells that turned out to be unsuitable.

As for “rescuing” them, I don’t think it’s necessary. They really like the wells; when we collected toads, several of them would always escape and hop right back into the window well.

Do toads even have a tadpole stage?

I grew up in a Chicago suburb too, but alas, I never found any toads in our window wells :frowning:

Hmmm… so I’m not alone in this phenomena. How do they get water? I have several window wells around my house, and interestingly enough, the only ones with the toads are the ones that the sprinkler system doesn’t hit. It’s practically a desert out here, so I don’t think there’s enough rain to keep 'em going. Maybe toads get enough water from the bugs they eat?

This is cool. I like the toads, and I hope that rescuing them didn’t scare 'em off if they really truly want to live in my window wells. It’s especially cool since my boyfriend is terrified of 'em. I can terrorize him now! Yay!

Any animal is going to thrive where the environmental factors are favorable. Even though it doesn’t seem as if there is enough moisture in your window wells for toads to survive, since they are proving you wrong, you must be wrong! :slight_smile:

Environmental factors are subject to change, and you may not find the toads in the future, but enjoy them for now. They’re getting all the light, water, food and protection they need for the time being.

The Dave-Guy
“since my daughter’s only half-Jewish, can she go in up to her knees?” J.H. Marx

How could anyone be scared of a toad?
Yes, they have a tadpole stage. I think that pollywogs and tadpoles are different: one is frog, the other toad. Which is which?

“It’s practically a desert out here, so I don’t think there’s enough rain to keep 'em going.”
Toads don’t need much water; notice their skin is thick and dry. The relatively moist soil in a window well is adequate to keep them content. Frogs have to live in/near water; their skin is thin and slimy and they’d shrivel up in a toad-friendly environment. Both need water for mating and hatching eggs. The pond at the end of our street was ideal for this purpose and yes, toads eggs do hatch into tadpoles. Or pollywogs. I think the difference in terms is a regional variance, but I could be wrong.

This is driving me crazy. Am I the only person on earth who doesn’t know what a window well is?

This is driving me crazy. Am I the only person on earth who doesn’t know what a window well is?

No! I’m lost, too. :::admitting ignorance:::

“Me fail English? That’s unpossible!”

“English? Who needs that? I’m never going to England.”

(A) A window well a structure that allows you to build basement windows below ground level. You dig a hole next to the wall on the outside, sink a window down there and line the hole with metal. I’m sure you’ve seen them.

(B) I’d imagine a couple toads could live happily down there. There’s food, moisture under the leaves, the occassional worm and bug to munch upon. It’s certainly no worse than living in a terrarium. Plus it’s cool and safe from things that eat toads. However, I can’t imagine a toad actually choosing to live down there intentionally. Toads are exceptionally bright as far as I can tell, and will happily jump off ledges. I’d think your average toad is never elevated enough for this to be an issue, but when it comes to window wells, I’m sure they jump down and get stuck. I don’t know if you’re “saving” them, but you can consider it doing them a favor since they can’t breed down there and there has to be a finite amount of worms and bugs.

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

Well, the toads might be bright, but I’m not. Make that statement “Toads aren’t exceptionally bright…”

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

The window wells without toads may have been recently predated upon by a snake. The wells WITH toads are more than likely just pre-predator areas. The toads probably do nicely in them, but can’t get out when invaded by a snake.
There are clear plastic “bubbles” that will prevent animals from getting into the wells.


ARrgggh!!! So now there’s not only toads, but SNAKES in my window wells?!? How do THEY get down there (and up again?)

Next think you know I’m gonna have penguins down there. A virtual menagerie!

Time: 10:59 MST

Toads in Window Well that I removed toads from yesterday : 0

Toads in Window Well that I did not remove toads from yesterday: 1

Snakes in Window Wells: 0

other beings, including but not limited to penguins, flamingos, frogs, etc.: 2 plastic pink flamingos that blew down there last year that I haven’t rescued yet. Maybe they’re eating the toads.


The toads I rescued did not jump right back down, even though I put them right on top where they easily could jump down if they so desired. Unless, of course, they’re hiding. As my means of detection was a flashlight pointed through the window into the window well (no WAY am I gonna climb down there in the dark! There might be snakes!) they could have easily hidden.

Can you tell this is bugging me WAY more than it should? I need to get covers for my window wells so I no longer worry about the poor creatures that may be dying down there.

Thanks, Jophiel, I am now slightly less ignorant. But…

What is the point of the things? Okay, it’s so you can have windows below ground level, but when you look out one of those windows you see what? The inside of a hole? How deep are these things if a toad can’t get out? Do they pose a danger to wandering children? Don’t they fill up with water when it rains? My mind is boggling here. Wouldn’t it be easier to have a basement with no windows?

I’m no expert in window wells, but I’ll take a crack at this.

Well, basements get very musty and dank, and it would seem to me that window wells provide a source of ventilation and sunlight to improve the situation slightly. I grew up in an area where there weren’t many window wells since the housing style put most foundations a foot or so over ground level, meaning most houses used those small windows as opposed to windo wells.

As far as kids falling in, my brother (who garnered the nickname “baseball head” for his alarming number of head injuries as a child) fell in one and was knocked unconsious for some time. So it does happen.

The wells are really not very deep, usually say a foot and a half, and since they’re right up against the house and kids know where they are (as a result of toad catching experiments), accidents are unlikely. As Jayron pointed out, it can happen, though.

Athena: “I need to get covers for my window wells so I no longer worry about the poor creatures that may be dying down there.”
This may cheer you up a bit: only once did I ever find a dead toad in a window well. I was a weird kid, and I checked these wells daily (sometimes more often) in the summer, so if ever a toad died in there I would have found it before it decomposed.
Of course, that doesn’t eliminate the possibility that they toads were being eaten by snakes. Where I grew up, we had only garter snakes and grass snakes, and I rarely even saw those in my yard. Do these snakes eat toads?
Does anything eat full grown toads? Even my dog wouldn’t taste them.


I grew up in the desert part of Colorado. We had tons of toads which bred in the irrigation ditches and canals off of the Colorado River.

My house didn’t have a basement, hence no window wells. But we did have a crawl space that had a few vent holes made from the same bricks as the rest of the house, just turned sideways.

Toads were always venturing out into the yard at night when it was cool. Then when Mr. Sun came up, they headed for the closest cool area, including the north side of our house. Inevitably, some would explore the vent hole, go too far, and be stuck 3 ft down in our crawl space. Unless they were supertoads, they would be stuck down there.

My dad and I went down there twice a year to clean the furnace. There were always dozens of toad skeletons awaiting us. (Sorry to bum you out.)

This was fortunate for one of our cats, Synbad. He once got in a big fight and disappeared for about a month. Turns out he camped out in the crawlspace and ate toads until he was recovered.

I’d suggest putting some sort of screen over the window wells.

The other reason to have window wells is if you want to finish your basement & put some bedrooms down there. I believe building code states that a bedroom must have a window large enough to crawl out of in case of fire. Thus, a basement with no windows could not legally contain any bedrooms.

My window wells are quite a bit deeper than 1.5 feet. I didn’t measure, but I’m thinking 4 or 5 feet. They’re deep enough that I need a ladder to get in and out of 'em. Incidentally, they also allow quite a bit of light into the basement. Kinda nice, really.

I think I’m gonna free that last toad tonight, and keep on the lookout for more critters lost in the wells. Who knows what I might find?

Your window wells are 4 or 5 feet deep?!? Wow! In that case, it would definitely be likely for your toads to get trapped down there. Or for kids to fall in and brain themselves. Those plexiglass bubbles sound like a good idea for you.