Thursday, April 29, 2021

Deer in the Toad Pool


These two small pools were constructed in an attempt to encourage toad production at Blue Jay Barrens.  The pool in the foreground is in its eighth year and the one behind was constructed five years ago.  Utilization of the pools by breeding Eastern Toads has increased each year.  Thousands of small toads have morphed from these pools to inhabit the surrounding area.  The temporary pools lose their water by midsummer and remain dry for several months.  Aquatic predators that would feast on the small tadpoles do not become established.  Click HERE for more on pool construction.

A multitude of other wildlife species regularly visit these pools.  Indentations in the pool bottom are made by Whitetail Deer that come to drink.

Heavy rains don’t cause the pool water to become cloudy with sediment, so what makes the water occasionally look like this.  Even when the weather has been rain free for several days, the water can suddenly take on the appearance of creamed coffee.  In an effort to discover what was happening, I installed a motion activated wildlife camera set to observe both pools.

I discovered that deer visits were the cause of the muddy water.

This compilation video shows the deer in action.  I don’t know how to explain their behavior.  This doesn’t happen every day, but it’s not uncommon to see it occur several times each month.

Other than developing a coating of silt on the egg strings, the toad eggs are relatively unaffected by the erratic deer activity.

The eggs have hatched and toadpoles are developing normally.  I’m expecting another successful influx of young toads into the local population.


  1. Have noticed the same in a spring fed pool I dug. Fenced it off with brush so some emergent plants could grow there unmolested.

    1. Hi, Rosemary. I guess deer just can't resist the allure of a shallow pool.

  2. Wonderful site! Thank you sincerely for the information and updates, hopefully all is well at the Barrens with yourself and the project.

  3. Revisited your blog post, it's such a great example of natural pond habitat creation. We're planning to dig one in a meadow on our land in VA, and are hoping it will hold water through late spring. i was looking at a pond blog from the UK and they mentioned the old practice of "puddling" a pond by making sheep or cattle walk around in the muddy bottom to compact it. Looks like the the deer might do a similar service!