Lee Richardson Zoo

Great Plains Toad

Order: Anuraa - Frogs, toads

Family: Bufonidae - true toads

Scientific Name: Anaxyrus cognatus


Description:The back is marked with large black, dark green or dark brown blotches that are outlined in cream or yellow; each blotch is filled with numerous warts. Some individuals have a light colored band that runs down the middle of their back. Front limbs are marked with bands or spots while the hind legs are banded. Belly is cream or yellow in color and some individuals might have a few dark colored spots on the chest. Other defining features are their relatively dry skin, a rounded snout, a bony ridge which is located along the mid-line of the head, and relatively large kidney-shaped glands that are located on the neck behind each eye. Females are larger than males. Size ranges from 2- 3 3/8 inches. Max length recorded is 4 ½ inches. In breeding season the male’s throat will be slightly darker in color and horny pads will form on the inner fingers of each hand.

Home Range:  They are widespread across central and southwestern United States and extend south into northern Mexico. They can be found as far north as southern Manitoba and southeastern Alberta, Canada.


Habitat Type:  A wide variety of habitats ranging from grasslands, semi-desert shrub lands, open floodplains, and agricultural areas.


Reproduction:  Spring and summer rainstorms produce temporary shallow pools that are ideal for reproduction. If conditions are ideal they can potentially have two reproductive occurrences in the same year. Males will seek these temporary pools and once located the males will gather and begin a chorus of calls to attract the females. If a female comes within grasping distance the male will attempt to grab her by her front limbs and then mount her. Once caught, she will begin to lay a long string of eggs, sometimes as many as 20,000 eggs but with an average of 2,000, which will be fertilized in the water. The fertilized eggs will attach to material on the bottom of the temporary pools and will hatch in about two days. Once hatched the small tadpoles will feed on insects available in the temporary pool. At about a month and a half old they will start the process of metamorphosis and will finish in about two weeks. These toads will not reach sexual maturity until three to five years of age.


Diet in the Wild:  Insects; moths, flies, cutworms, and beetles.


Diet in the Zoo:  Crickets. 


General Information:  These amphibians spend most of their time in burrows that they create from a backward shuffle motion. They are more likely to be spotted outside the burrow from March- November with a peak in activity from early May to mid-July. They are nocturnal and leave their burrow about an hour before dusk to find food or search for breeding locations. Vocalizations are referred to as an explosive clatter. To some, it might sound like a jackhammer. Known predators are domesticated cats but presumably some snakes and mammals will consume this amphibian. If threatened they may display defensive behavior where they inflate their lungs to make themselves appear as large as possible. .



Animal. (Smithsonian Institute).  David Burnie and Don E. Wilson.  2001.  DK Publishing, New York.  pg. 201.


Distribution and Mesohabitat Characteristics of River Otters in Eastern Kansas.Master Thesis by Andrea OstroffDec. 2001.  Emporia State University.

Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles in Kansas. 2010. Collins, Joseph T., Collins, Suzanne L., Taggart, Travis W. Eagle Mountain Publishing, LC. Pp. 38-40. Axley, E. 1999. "Anaxyrus cognatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 20, 2016 at http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Anaxyrus_cognatus/ IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. 2015. Anaxyrus cognatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T54612A53949260. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T54612A53949260.en. Downloaded on 20 December 2016. Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 2003. Stebbins, Robert C. Houghton Mifflin Company. Pp 215. Wikimedia Commons. 2015. Great Plains toad.jpg. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Plains_toad.jpg. Downloaded on 21 December 2016.