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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Great Plains Toad - Anaxyrus cognatus
Other Names:  Bufo cognatus

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Species of Concern

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S2

Agency Status
USFWS:
USFS: SENSITIVE
BLM: SENSITIVE
FWP Conservation Tier: 2

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Copyright by Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network
 
General Description
The skin of adult Great Plains Toads is covered with numerous small warts; cranial crests are prominent, and diverge posteriorly from a hard lump (boss) on top of the snout. The parotoid glands posterior to the eyes are elongated. The back exhibits a somewhat symmetrical pattern of large, light-edged dark spots or patches. The underside of the hind foot often has a sharp-edged tubercle and a smaller dark-tipped tubercle. Females can reach 11.4 centimeters snout-vent length (SVL); males are usually less than 9.5 centimeters SVL. Males have dark, loose throat skin and a dark patch on the inner surface of the innermost digit of the forefeet during breeding. The vocal sac, when inflated, may extend beyond the front of the face. The breeding call is a long continuous trill or pulsating ringing sound.

Juveniles have reddish warts. Tadpoles are initially blackish on the dorsum with light or gold flecking, then become paler and mottled brown; the dorsal pattern of large, paired blotches appears before metamorphosis is complete. The eyes are dorsal, and the dorsal fin is highly arched with some black dentritic lines. The upper mandible is highly arched, and labial tooth rows are usually 2/3, with oral papillae restricted to the sides of the mouth. Total length ranges from 25 to 35 millimeters. Eggs are black above, white below, and about 1.2 to 1.3 millimeters in diameter, usually in a single row in long strings of two-layered jelly that is constricted between individual eggs.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Boreal Toad (Bufo boreas) lacks cranial crests and is found only in mountainous parts of Montana. On Woodhouse's Toad (Bufo woodhousii), the cranial crests are parallel between the eyes, forming two back-to-back L shapes (not convergent between the eyes in a V), and do not merge on the snout in a bony lump or boss. Both Boreal and Woodhouse's Toads lack the symmetrical black-green spots with light halos on on the back and sides . Boreal Toad tadpoles are dark to black on the back, lack any gold flecking, and are found only in mountainous parts of the state. Woodhouse's Toad tadpoles lack the strongly arched tail fin. Woodhouse's Toad eggs are enclosed in a single jelly layer; Boreal Toad eggs are in strings that are not pinched between eggs, and are present only in the mountainous parts of the state.

General Distribution
Montana Range



Western Hemisphere Range

 


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 364

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)



Migration
No information is available specific to Montana. Elsewhere the species is known to migrate up to several hundred meters between breeding pools and nonbreeding terrestrial habitats.

Habitat
Little specific information on the habitat of Great Plains Toad is available. It has been reported from sagebrush-grassland, rainwater pools in road ruts, in stream valleys, at small reservoirs and stock ponds, and around rural farms; breeding has been documented in small reservoirs and backwater sites along streams (Mosimann and Rabb 1952, Dood 1980, Hendricks 1999, Hossack et al. 2003).

Information gathered from other locations indicates that when inactive, the Great Plains Toad is found in burrows and under rocks or wood. During the active season, it occupies burrows during the day that are quite shallow. This species enters water only to breed. It breeds in rain pools, flooded areas, and ponds and reservoirs that fluctuate in size, and appears to prefer stock tanks and roadside ponds rather than floodplains (Baxter and Stone 1985). Eggs and larvae develop in shallow water, usually clear or slightly turbid, but not muddy.

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at bmaxell@mt.gov or (406) 444-3655.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2001.  The wild mammals of Montana.  Special Publication No. 12.  Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists.  278 p.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Although food habits in Montana have not been studied, adult and juvenile Great Plains Toads are generally known to eat a variety of small terrestrial arthropods, including spiders, moths, caterpillars, flies, beetles, termites, and ants (Dimmitt and Ruibal 1980, Hammerson 1999), and require 11 to 22 feedings per year to survive. In the playa wetlands of northwest Texas, carabid beetles were the most common food (Anderson et al. 1999). Larvae eat suspended matter, organic debris, algae, and plant tissue.

Ecology
Great Plains Toads are uncommon near human habitation (Black 1970). They are mainly nocturnal (Bragg 1940, Black 1970). Post-metamorphic young may form aggregations (Graves 1993).

Reproductive Characteristics
Great Plains Toads breed only after rain in clear, shallow, temporary pools of flooded grasslands, probably May to July in Montana (Bragg 1940, Black 1970). Two of three females collected in north-central Montana on July 20 had well developed eggs (Mosimann and Rabb 1952).

From information gathered in Oklahoma, breeding choruses usually last a few days but are of variable duration. They lasted up to 14 days in March but only 1 to 2 days in June (Krupa 1994). Clutch size was usually several thousand eggs that hatch in a few days. The larval period was short (as few as 18 days) in June and long (up to 49 days) in early spring. Pools rarely held water long enough for larvae to reach metamorphosis (Krupa 1994). Great Plains Toads are sexually mature in 2 to 5 years. The species commonly exhibits communal egg deposition (Krupa 1994).

Management
No special management needs are currently recognized. However, at permanent and semi-permanent water bodies (reservoirs and stock ponds) where breeding has been observed, portions of the shoreline with emergent vegetation could be fenced to create enclosures that protect breeding adults, eggs, and tadpoles from trampling and the removal of emergent cover by livestock. Another option would be the creation of ponds designed for use by prairie amphibians as breeding sites, with the perimeter surrounded by fencing to prevent access by livestock. Game fish should not be introduced to any of these ponds.

References
  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View WorldCat Record   View Online Publication
    • Anderson, A. M., D. A. Haukos, and J. T. Anderson. 1999. Diet composition of three anurans from the playa wetlands of northwest Texas. Copeia 1999:515-520.
    • Baxter, G. T. and M. D. Stone. 1985. Amphibians and reptiles of Wyoming. Second edition. Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Cheyenne, WY. 137 p.
    • Black, J.H. 1970. Some aspects of the distribution, natural history and zoogeography of the toad genus Bufo in Montana. M.S. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 70 p.
    • Bragg, A. N. 1940. Observations on the ecology and natural history of Anura. I. Habits, habitat and breeding of Bufo cognatus Say. American Naturalist 74: 322-349, 424-438.
    • Dimmitt, M.A. and R. Ruibal. 1980. Exploitation of food resources by spadefoot toads (Scaphiopus). Copeia (4): 854-862.
    • Dood, A. R. 1980. Terry Badlands nongame survey and inventory final report. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and Bureau of Land Management, Helena, MT. 70 p.
    • Graves, R. J. 1993. Ecology and exploitation of crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) in Noxon Rapids Reservoir, Montana. M.A. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 88 p.
    • Hammerson, G. A. 1999. Amphibians and reptiles in Colorado. University Press of Colorado & Colorado Division of Wildlife. Denver, CO. 484 p.
    • Hendricks, P. 1999. Amphibian and reptile survey of the Bureau of Land Management Miles City District, Montana. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 80 p.
    • Hossack, B., D. Pilliod, and S. Corn. 2003. Amphibian survey of Medicine Lake National Wildlife Complex: 2001-2002. USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, Missoula, Montana. 19 p.
    • Krupa, J.J. 1994. Breeding biology of the Great Plains toad in Oklahoma. Journal of Herpetology 28: 217-224.
    • Mosimann, J.E. and G.B. Rabb. 1952. The herpetology of Tiber Reservoir Area, Montana. Copeia (1): 23-27.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View WorldCat Record   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
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    • Scow, K.L. 1980. Terrestrial wildlife survey American Colloid study area Phillips County, Montana. Western Technology and Engineering, Inc., Helena, MT.
    • Sievert, L. 1991. Thermoregulatory behaviour in the toads Bufo marinus and Bufo cognatus. Journal of Thermal Biology 16(5): 309-312.
    • Smith, C.C. and A.N. Bragg. 1949. Observations on the ecology and natural history of Anura, VII. Food and feeding habits of the common species of toads in Oklahoma. Ecology 30(3): 333-349.
    • Smith, H.M. 1946. The tadpoles of Bufo cognatus Say. University of Kansas Publications Museum of Natural History 1(3): 93-96.
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    • Sullivan, B.K. 1983a. Sexual selection and mating system variation in the Great Plains toad (Bufo cognatus Say) and woodhouse’s toad (Bufo woodhousei australis Shannon and Lowe). Ph.D. Dissertation, Arizona State University. 138 pp.
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    • Sullivan, B.K. 1985. Sexual selection and mating system variation in anuran amphibians of the Arizona-Sonoran desert. Great Basin Naturalist 45(4): 688-696.
    • Sullivan, B.K. 1990. Natural hybrid between the Great Plains toad (Bufo cognatus) and the red-spotted toad (Bufo punctatus) from central Arizona. Great Basin Naturalist 50(4) 1990: 371-372.
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    • Timken, R.L. and D.G. Dunlap. 1965. Ecological distribution of the two species of Bufo in southeastern South Dakota. Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Sciences 44: 113-117.
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    • Waage, Bruce C., 1995, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana:1994 Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; December 1, 1993 - November 30, 1994. February 27, 1995.
    • Waage, Bruce C., 1996, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: 1995 Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; December 1, 1994 - November 30, 1995. February 28, 1996.
    • Werner, J. K., B. A. Maxell, P. Hendricks and D. L. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and Reptiles of Montana. Mountain Press Publishing Company: Missoula, MT, 262 pp.
    • Wheeler, G.C. and J. Wheeler. 1966. The amphibians and reptiles of North Dakota. University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND. 104 pp.
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Great Plains Toad — Anaxyrus cognatus.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  Retrieved on April 17, 2014, from http://FieldGuide.mt.gov/detail_AAABB01050.aspx
 
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