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Amphibians - Toads

Plains Spadefoot Toad

(Scaphiopus bombifrons )

The plains spadefoot toad is the most easily recognized toad in North Dakota. Its skin is smooth like that of a frog, and it has a distinct vertical pupil like that of a cat. Its color varies from a light cream, to gray or brown.

Spadefoot toads inhabit the dry grasslands of western North Dakota which have sandy or loose soil. Their back feet have a digging spur (spade) which they use to burrow into the soil. They may burrow up to two feet underground until they hit a layer of moist soil.

Spadefoots are known as explosive breeders. During the warm summer months they emerge in the evening after a heavy rain to quickly breed in shallow ponds. By morning the adults are back underground awaiting the next heavy rain.

Woodhouse's Toad

(Bufo woodhousei )

Woodhouse's toads are large toads reaching up to five inches. Its coloration varies from green to light brown with a distinctive light stripe down the middle of its back. They inhabit moist areas of western and southern North Dakota. They are commonly found at night near the base of yard lights where there is an abundance of insects.

Woodhouse's toads are named after the 19th century explorer, surgeon, and naturalist, Samuel Woodhouse. These toads were formerly called "Rocky Mountain toads."

Great Plains Toad

(Bufo cognatus )

Great Plains toads are the only North Dakota toads with large dark symmetrical blotches on their backs. Some toads may or may not have a light stripe down the middle of the back.

These toads inhabit the grasslands of North Dakota. They are accomplished burrowers in loose soil and are found at night along roadsides or irrigation ditches where insects are plentiful.

American Toad

(Bufo americanus )

American toads are large toads found in eastern North Dakota. Their coloration varies from brown, to brick red, to olive green. A light stripe may be found down the middle of the back.

The habitat of these toads varies. It may include mowed grassy yards, woodlands, or wherever there is an abundant supply of moisture and insects.

Canadian Toad

Canadian Toad

(Bufo hemiophrys )

Canadian toads are also referred to as Dakota toads. They are average-sized toads reaching a length of 2-3 inches. In North Dakota they are found east of the Missouri River. The coloration varies from green to brownish-red, with brownish-red warts. A light line may be found down the middle of the back.

These toads inhabit margins of lakes, ponds, and prairie potholes. They are primarily nocturnal and are strong swimmers. To avoid capture they readily seek the safety of water. They can burrow into the group using their hind feet, much like the spadefoot toad.

Both American toads and Canadian toads have heavily spotted bellies.

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Last modified July 4, 1995