Spadefoot Toad

Mottled toad on sandy background.
Couch's spadefoot

NPS photo

Couch’s Spadefoot (Scaphiopus couchii)

Couch’s spadefoot spends most of the year several feet underground in a dormant state protected from extreme temperatures and dryness. During summer rainstorms, the sound of thunder and rain prompts them to leave their burrows. Once above ground, they immediately start to feed, often choosing termites that also emerge during the summer rains. This might be the spadefoot’s only chance to eat until the next summer! If the storms produce enough water, they will also search for a mate (the male’s sheep-like call attracts the females), breed, and lay eggs in temporary pools and puddles. Adapted to an environment in which pools of water are short-lived, spadefoot eggs hatch in in about 15 hours, and tadpoles can develop into toadlets in as few as 9 days!

As dawn approaches, spadefoots use bony projections on their back feet (spades) to dig into the soil. Just under the soil’s surface, they await the next summer rain. When the summer rainy season come to a close, the spadefoots will dig deep under the soil and return to a dormant state.

Length: 2 ¼ -3 3/5 in. (5.7-9.1 cm)

Diet: Insects; mostly termites.

Last updated: February 25, 2015

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