Great Basin Spadefoot

Great Basin Spadefoot

Western Spadefoot Frog, Intermountain Spadefoot Frog

Spea intermontana

This page may contain affiliate links.
Read our disclosure and privacy policy here.

The Great Basin Spadefoot Frog (Spea intermontana) is a unique amphibian native to the arid regions of the western United States and Canada. This fascinating frog has a compact body with a characteristic spade-like protrusion on its hind feet, which it uses for burrowing in sandy or loose soil. Its coloration varies from light gray to brown, providing excellent camouflage in its desert habitat. The Great Basin Spadefoot Frog has an incredible adaptation to survive in dry environments. It has the ability to aestivate, a form of extended dormancy, during periods of drought. This allows it to conserve water and survive in harsh conditions. During wet periods, it emerges from its burrow to breed in temporary ponds, where it lays its eggs. The tadpoles develop rapidly and metamorphose into froglets within a few weeks. Despite facing habitat loss and degradation, the Great Basin Spadefoot Frog plays a crucial role in its ecosystem by controlling insect populations and serving as prey for larger animals.

Great Basin Spadefoot

Common Name
Great Basin Spadefoot

Other Names

Western Spadefoot Frog, Intermountain Spadefoot Frog

Latin Name

Spea intermontana




This frog has a compact body with a rounded snout and vertical pupils. Its coloration varies depending on its environment, ranging from light gray to brown or olive. It often has dark blotches or markings on its back.


Adult Great Basin Spadefoot Frogs typically measure around 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 centimeters) in length.


They are adapted to survive in arid habitats, such as sagebrush flats, grasslands, and desert regions. They can be found in sandy or loose soil near temporary pools or playas.


Great Basin Spadefoot Frogs are primarily nocturnal and spend most of their time underground, emerging after heavy rains or during the breeding season. They are excellent burrowers and use their specialized spade-like hind feet to dig into the ground.


They have a carnivorous diet, feeding on a variety of invertebrates, including insects, spiders, and other small arthropods.


The lifecycle of the Great Basin Spadefoot Frog begins when adults gather at breeding sites, which are typically temporary bodies of water. Females lay eggs in shallow water, and the eggs hatch into tadpoles within a few days. The tadpoles undergo metamorphosis and transform into froglets, developing lungs and limbs to become fully terrestrial frogs.


The Great Basin Spadefoot Frog produces a distinctive call during the breeding season, which resembles a nasal, duck-like “quonk” or “waaah” sound. Males call to attract females and establish territories.

Defense Mechanisms

When threatened, Great Basin Spadefoot Frogs have several defense mechanisms. They can produce a toxic substance from glands behind their eyes, deterring predators from attacking. They may also inflate their bodies to appear larger and play dead to avoid detection.

Ecological Importance

The Great Basin Spadefoot Frog plays an important ecological role. As tadpoles, they consume algae and organic matter, helping to maintain water quality in temporary ponds. As adults, they control insect populations, including pests like mosquitoes, and serve as a food source for predators such as birds, snakes, and mammals.

Conservation Status

The Great Basin Spadefoot Frog is generally considered to be a species of least concern in terms of conservation status. However, certain populations may face threats from habitat loss, water pollution, and the conversion of natural habitats for agricultural or urban development.
Let's Go Avocado Team

There’s a lot to explore right where we are, in our own neighborhoods and backyards! Join us while we get off the couch and explore the everyday wonders of nature, science, space, engineering, art, and anything else we stumble upon during on our adventures.

More Posts: