The plains spadefoot is a medium sized toad. The body of an adult can be 40 to 60 mm long. On top they are a light sandy colour, with light brown spots or blotches. The belly is cream coloured. Each spadefoot has a large, hard bump under its hind feet. The eyes have a pupil shaped like a cat's.

Look-alikes: The plains spadefoot is lighter in colour than the great plains toad and the Canadian toad. The spadefoot can be told from all other frogs and toads by the large bump under its hind feet and the shape of the pupil in its eye (it looks like a cat's eye).


This animal gets its name from the large bump under its hind feet. This bump looks like a spade (a kind of shovel) and helps the spadefoot dig into soft sand.


The plains spadefoot lives in the grasslands of central and western North America. It prefer the open prairies, away from forests or wetlands. It is most often found in areas with sandy soil. In Manitoba it is found only in the southwest part of the province.

Where it lives in Manitoba.


The spadefoot is active at night. By day it hides by digging into soft earth or sand. In late fall, they dig deep into soft sand to spend winter below the frost.


The plains spadefoot eats insects and other animals without backbones that live on the ground, like ants, beetles or centipedes.

Snakes are the main enemies of spadefoot toads. In Manitoba the western hognose snake and the plains garter snake eat them.

The tadpoles are eaten by water bugs and shore birds. One of the main enemies of spadefoot tadpoles is other spadefoot tadpoles! If food is hard to find in the ponds where the eggs were laid, some of the tadpoles will attack and eat the others. This way, at least some of the tadpoles will have enough food to grow to become toadlets.


Spadefoot toads live in dry areas and only breed after a heavy rain. They breed in large rain puddles in June or July when the weather is warm.

Mating call of the plains spadefoot:
(with some boreal chorus frogs, too)

Females lay up to 250 eggs. The eggs hatch in 2 days and the tadpoles can become toadlets in as little as 14 days. The faster the water in the rain puddle dries up, the sooner the tadpoles will change to toadlets. The tadpoles change to toadlets that are only about 10 mm long.


The plains spadefoot is not very common in Manitoba and no one knows how many there might be in each hectare of their habitat.


The plains spadefoot is a very fast digger. It can use the "spade" on its hind feet to dig itself backwards into sand in just a few minutes.

This is an amphibian that lives in very dry, sandy places.

Spadefoot tadpoles may eat other spadefoot tadpoles, so that at least some tadpoles will survive.


This toad has not been studied in Manitoba and not much is known about it. They are not common and are probably not used by people for anything.