Great Plains Toad

Anaxyrus (Bufo) cognatus

Species at Risk: May Be At Risk

This is a nocturnal, medium sized toad 45-115mm in length. Perhaps its most characteristic feature is its large olive or green patches with pale coloured borders. These patches are usually symmetrically paired on the back. A light dorsal stripe may also be present. The belly is white and young toads have numerous small red tubercles. This toad also has large oval paratoid glands and cranial crests form an “L” behind each eye and unite in a boss near the nose. Each hind foot has a sharp edged inner tubercle to aid in digging. Great Plains toads burry under the ground to escape extremes in temperature and to sit out droughts. The heavy summer rains awaken them and they are quick and explosive breeders. They breed in the clear and shallow water that accumulates during such weather.

They will not breed in muddy water. Males have large sausage shaped vocal sac’s and a loud call to attract females. Eats moths flies and beetles and probably any other invertebrate it comes across.

Quite simply as their name suggests, this species lives in the Great Plains. This is prairie and desert habitat. They range from Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan down to Mexico and at altitudes from sea level to 2440m. In Alberta you can find them south of the Reddeer river and East of Brooks, Vauxhaul and Taber primarily associated with the South Saskatchwan river system.

There have been population declines for this toad since the 1980’s. In Alberta the primary culprit is habitat loss due to agriculture. Cattle will trample and muddy potential breeding habitat.

The Amphibians and Reptiles of Alberta by Anthony P. Russell and Aaron M. Bauer
Western Reptiles and Amphibians 3rd Edition by Robert C. Stebbins

Photo by Ian Kanda
This young of the year toad has yet to develop cranial crests or “boss”.
It can be identified by it’s large green patches, bordered in light colouration.