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Great Plains Toad

The abundance and status of the Great Plains Toad (Bufo cognatus), a moderately large toad species, which ranges into the southeastern comer of Alberta, has been of concern to observers for several years. The most recent provincial status report on the species, prepared for World Wildlife Fund Canada, recommended these toads be classified as "threatened". The species is included on the "Red list" of species which are at risk of declining to nonviable population levels in Alberta.

In Alberta, Great Plains Toads inhabit the dry grasslands in the southeastern corner of the province. This area endures wide climatic extremes, experiencing hot, dry summer conditions and long, cold winters. The area is part of the northern extension of the North American Great Plains, and in southern Alberta is generally classified as mixed-grass prairie. These toads have been described as inhabiting the sand plain and sandhill habitat types within the mixed grasslands of southeastern Alberta.

Great Plains Toads are a relatively large toad species, with head-body (snout to vent) length between 45 - 110 millimetres. In Alberta, the species is described as having a background colour of pale brown-grey or olive, with an irregular pattern of darker spots.

The quality and availability of breeding sites is presumed to be a critical component of the persistence of the species in Alberta. Great Plains Toads prefer temporary, clear, shallow pools such as those found in flooded fields, ditches, and buffalo wallows; usually with considerable vegetation protruding. The clarity of the water in breeding sites is important - these toads will not breed in muddy or turbid waters.

Great Plains Toads are opportunistic feeders, but apparently avoid eating earthworms, even when plentiful. Ground-dwelling, nocturnal insects are the most commonly consumed prey of Great Plains Toads. Examples of the prey taken by these toads included beetles, ants and spiders, in descending order of relative occurrence. Tadpoles feed on algae and decomposing insect remains or vegetation. The newly metamorphosed toadlets will feed on almost any small insect they can swallow.

Great Plains Toad

Great Plains Toad