Eastern Spadefoot

Pelobatidae (spadefoots) in the order Anura (frogs)

A stout, toadlike amphibian with big, protruding eyes, vertically elliptical pupils, short legs, and large feet. There is no raised area between the eyes. Overall color is light brown to yellow brown. Head, back, and upperparts of legs are mottled with dark brown. The amount of dark brown on the back may be great enough to form 2 or 3 light yellow-brown stripes in a pattern resembling a lyre. The belly is pale white to gray. The inner surface of each hind foot has a sickle-shaped spur or “spade.” Call is a quick series of coarse “wank, wank, wank” or “errrah, errrah, errrah” sounds repeated every few seconds. Some say it sounds like a young crow.

Similar species: The plains spadefoot, which occurs in counties along the Missouri River, is distinguished by the presence of a boss (a raised area) betwen the eyes and by having a wedge-shaped spade at the base of each hind foot.

Length (snout to vent): 1¾–2¼ inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Eastern spadefoots spend most of their time in burrows dug with their hind feet. They are nocturnal and become active on warm, damp or rainy nights. They occasionally occur in wooded areas, but they seem to prefer open fields where loose sand and soil facilitates burrowing. Sand prairies amid swamps are perfect for them.
A variety of insects.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Eastern counties along the Mississippi River and in southeastern Missouri in the Mississippi Lowlands.
Rare in our state due to draining of wetlands and loss of native sand prairies; a Species of Conservation Concern. Often called spadefoot toads, spadefoots are not true toads, nor are they true frogs, either. They’re named for a feature on the inner surface of their hind feet, a spadelike spur that helps them to dig their burrows.
Life cycle: 
Breeding takes place after sunset after heavy rains, usually between April and August. In some years, warm torrential rains in February may cause early breeding. They breed in temporarily flooded fields or ditches. Eggs are laid in short, wide strands and attached to submerged vegetation. A female can produce 1,000–2,500 eggs or more. Eggs hatch in only a few days, and tadpoles can metamorphose in 3–5 or more weeks, depending on water temperature.
Human connections: 
Just when you think you have sorted all the animals you know into easy categories, you encounter a toadlike creature that is neither toad nor frog. The vertical pupils are a clue that something’s strange here — true toads’ pupils are horizontal! There is always something new to discover in nature.
Ecosystem connections: 
A predator of insects, the eastern spadefoot and a host of other small insectivores function to control the populations of the hosts of those creatures. Meanwhile, the frogs, and their own thousands of eggs and many tadpoles, are eaten by larger predators.