Great Basin Spadefoot

October 23, 2015
Heidi Rockney and Karen Wu
 Great Basin Spadefoot

Great Basin Spadefoot

Photo: Dennis Paulson

Name: Great Basin Spadefoot (Scaphiopus intermontanus)
Order: Frogs (Anura)
Family: Spadefoot Toads (Pelobatidae)

What they look like

  • 3-6.5 cm
  • Gray, brown or olive with hourglass markings  on back
  • Have a small digging spade on hind foot
  • Underside is white

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live
  • In Washington State are found east of the Cascade mountains
  • Live in dry or semi dry areas such as grasslands and prairies
  • Prefer loose soil they can dig in and can spend several months buried underground
  • Are terrestrial, do not rely heavily on water and are not found in water except in breeding season


  • Breeding season is April-June after heavy spring or summer rain
  • Eggs are attached to plants or small branches in temporary pools of water
  • Eggs hatch within a few days and tadpoles complete metamorphosis in about one week

Cool Biology Facts

  • They emit a smell when picked up that is similar to peanuts and can make you sneeze!
  • They have vertical pupils, unlike most other toads that have horizontal pupils.
  • Have the fastest metamorphosis rate of any North American anura


  • There are currently no major threats to this species.
Great Basin Spadefoot

Map of Great Basin Spadefoot distribution in Washington state. Learn more on the NatureMapping Foundation website.

Explore more of the Amphibians & Reptiles of Washington or check out All About Amphibians.

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