Creature Feature: Spadefoots

Click the play button in the audio player below.  Does that noise sound familiar?


(If you can't see an audio player,  click here to open it in a new tab. Audio is from californiaherps.com)

No, that's not your spouse snoring last night. That's a male spadefoot trying to impress the ladies!

Spadefoots are a light grey-green colour with darker blotches
along the back. Their round, squat bodies are 2-3 inches long
and their eyes have a distinctive 'cats-eye'' vertical pupil, 
The Great Basin Spadefoot can be found through most of the Okanagan-Similkameen region, though because they are nocturnal and hide underground, they are not often seen. It was once thought that Spadefoots were a kind of toad, but scientists recently discovered they are unique enough to make up their own group. Part of what makes them unique is a small, fingernail-like growth protruding from each back foot, which lets the spadefoot scrape dirt out from underneath itself to burrow backwards into the ground. Spadefoots quite literally have spades on their feet!

The odd snoring call that you heard at the beginning of this article is the mating call of the male spadefoot. The males gather along the sides of small ponds to call for females and on a clear night, these calls can be heard over 200 metres (650 feet) away.  Spadefoots breed in early spring when the snow melt and spring rains have created temporary pools in which mating and egg-laying can occur. These pools quickly dry up once the weather beings to warm, so spadefoot tadpoles have one of the fastest development times of all frogs and toads; after an egg is laid, it takes only 60 days to grow into an adult.

In addition to their digging abilities and speedy development, spadefoots are also unique in their extreme hibernation. Winter and most of the fall is spent spent in true hibernation underground and the heat of the summer is spent in aestivation, a type of hibernation used by some animals to escape extreme heat. Up to 8 months of the year is spend in these dormant states and a spadefoots can live for up to ten years.

Due to habitat destruction and loss of breeding habitat, the Great Basin Spadefoot has been listed as a Threatened species in British Columbia.

FrogLogs® allow trapped animals
 to escape swimming pools.
If you have a swimming pool and have discovered spadefoots, salamanders, or any other kind of animal in your pool filter (dead or alive), please contact us and we may be able to provide you with a FrogLog ® (see left photo).

 If you have spadefoots on your property and may be interested in becoming a Wildlife Habitat Steward, click here for more information.