U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A green toad with brown spots and large round eyes on leaf litter

Great Basin Spadefoot

(Spea intermontana)

Information icon Great Basin spadefoot. Photo by Dean White, Lincoln County Conservation District.

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Taxon: Amphibian

Range: AZ, CA, CO, ID, NV, OR, UT, WA and WY

Status: State Managed

If you hear a loud, snoring croak in the sagebrush, it may be the call of a Great Basin spadefoot toad.

This toad is one of the few amphibian species found in the sagebrush ecosystem. They may be hard to spot, however, since the Great Basin spadefoot toad spends most of its time buried underground in order to avoid losing too much moisture to the dry air. For this reason, they prefer loose, sandy soils that are easy to dig into.

During their annual breeding season, Great Basin spadefoot toads use wet meadows, ponds, irrigation ditches, and other locations with still or slow-moving water in order to reproduce. Females can lay up to 1,000 eggs, which attach to vegetation in the bottom of the water. Tadpoles hatch within two to seven days.

News, Blogs and Multimedia

A person holds a Great Basin spadefoot tadpole in their hands. The tadpole already shows the brown colorings of the toad, has a tail and is about the size of a dime
Great Basin spadefoot tadpole. Creative Commons licensed photo by Andrew DuBois.


Two side by side images of a Great basin spadefoot toad, which is an olive to grayish green in color and has a upturned pug nose and golden eyes. The left image is a front-facing view a few inches from the toad's face. The right image shows the toad from a few inches above, looking away from the camera so the bulk of its body is visible
Great Basin spadefoot. Photos taken by Siobhan Sullivan.

The toad gets its name from its characteristic glossy black spade on its hind legs. Unlike most toads, the Great Basin spadefoot has smooth skin similar to a frog’s that is olive to grayish green in color. It also has a upturned pug nose and golden eyes.


A very close-up shot of a Great Basin spadefoot toad, burrowing into grey sand
Great Basin spadefoot. Creative Commons licensed by James Harding, Michigan State University.

Great Basin spadefoot toads prefer locations with soils they can burrow into, or they’ll use existing rodent burrows. Like all animals, they require access to a water source and a toad may use different water sources from year to year depending on availability.


Ants and some types of beetles are common sources of food for the Great Basin spadefoot toad.


A map of the western United States, showing western Texas to several hundred miles off of the western coast. The top edge of the map shows northern Saskatchewan west to the middle of British Columbia. Inside the United States, purple coloring indicates where the species is a permanent resident. The purple range stretches from the northwestern tip of Nevada, northeast to south central Wyoming and western Colorado, with pockets of purple stretching through southern Idaho west to central Washington and Oregon. A tiny bit of purple touches the most eastern parts of central to northern California. The entirety of Utah is purple and nearly all of Nevada is as well. The legend on the right shows, at the top, a zoomed-out map of North and South America, with a red box indicating the range of the main map on the left. Below this mini-map is a legend with purple indicating permanent resident, along with other colors and markings, all of which are not visible on either map. Logo on the bottom for Nature Serve
Range map by NatureServe.

Additional Information