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Eastern Spadefoot Toad

Quick Facts

  • Genus:
    Scaphiopus holbrookii
  • Location:
    East Coast of the United States

Did You Know?

The Eastern spadefoot toad leads a secretive life and is rarely seen.
When handling spadefoot toads, many people experience strong allergic reactions to secretions from the toads’ skin glands.
During periods of extended drought, Eastern spadefoot toads can lie dormant. They curl into a tight ball and excrete a fluid that hardens the soil around them, forming a compact chamber, to retain any available moisture. When heavy rains soak the soil, the toads uncurl and resume their normal activities.
Spadefoot eggs are laid underwater and deposited in strings, which are easily broken. A female may lay up to 2,500 eggs.

The Scoop

The Secretive Toad

Eastern spadefoot toads can be found in arid to semi-arid areas, such as fields, farmland, dunes and woodlands with sandy or loose soils. Their highly permeable skin allows them to survive in dry areas by digging down in moist sand and absorbing water from the surrounding soil.  Eastern spadefoot toads are plump, with smooth skin and scattered, tiny warts. They range in color from olive to brown to black. You can distinguish one from other toads by a black, sharp-edged, spade-like projection on the underside of each foot which gives the toad its name. The spade-like projections on the hind feet enable it to dig easily into the soil. By rocking back and forth and rapidly digging with its hind legs, the toad can vanish quickly below the surface of loose soil. Spadefoots remain underground in shallow burrows for weeks during dry periods. When it rains heavily, their call can be heard- the sound is similar to the call of a crow!

Eastern spadefoot toads are small. They are smaller than a finger in length – between 1.5-2.5 inches. This toad emerges from its burrow at night, usually when it is humid, to prevent significant water loss. Once at the surface, the toad searches for worms, flies, crickets, caterpillars, moths, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, earthworms and snails. Tadpoles initially feed on plankton for a few days. The population of spadefoot toads is threatened due to the growth of towns and cities that leads to the destruction of the places they live in.