Visit our new website

Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network - Réseau Canadien de 
Conservation des Amphibiens et des Reptiles

Anaxyrus cognatus

formerly Bufo cognatus

Great Plains Toad / Crapaud des steppes


Great Plains Toad
© Jason Penney

Description
The Great Plains Toad is a moderate sized, pale brown-grey to olive coloured toad with dark blotches and numerous small warts. It may or may not have a stripe down the centre of the back. The parotoid glands are large and oval. The cranial crests form an L-shape around each eye and fuse between the eyes in a V. The cranial crest of toadlets forms just the V. The belly is pure white. Adults may reach 11 cm.

Call
The Great Plains Toad call is a high pitched, long mechanical trill resembling the burst of a machine gun. A breeding chorus can be heard for up to two kilometres across the prairies.

Confusing Species
The Great Plains Toad overlaps with the Canadian Toad. The Canadian Toad has grey spots on the belly and the cranial crests form a fused bump (boss)between the eyes.

Distribution
The Canadian distribution of the Great Plains Toad is limited to extreme southeastern Alberta, southwestern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba. It is more widely distributed through the Great Plains in the United States and down into Mexico.

Habitat
This is a grassland toad found near river flood plains, irrigation canals, dugouts and temporary pools where it breeds. It often burrows underground, especially to escape the heat.

Reproduction
The Great Plains Toad breeds in response to spring or summer rains. Up to 20,000 eggs are laid in long strings in shallow, clear water.The eggs hatch in about two days and tadpoles transform after six weeks.

Natural History
The Great Plains Toad is generally nocturnal although it is more resistant to high temperatures than other toads. When threatened it takes a defensive posture by puffing with air, raising on all four legs and lowering its head. It eats moths, flies and beetles. Maturity is reached in three to five years.

Conservation Concerns
Populations in Alberta have declined. Populations in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are extremely small and therefore vulnerable. Possible threats include habitat loss and drought.