Western spadefoot. Image via California Herps.

Western spadefoot

General Information: The western spadefoot is a small, stout-bodied toad. Their colors range from green to gray, often with dark blotches or stripes on their backs. They are reliant on seasonal rainfall for their breeding habitat.

CategoryFocal species
Surface Water Needs: Yes, at least three weeks annually
Federal Listing Status: Under review
State Listing Status: Species of Special Concern

Potential Conservation Actions:  

  • Establish permanent or temporary sources of water
  • Avoid disking
  • Plant natives

Fun Fact

Adult western spadefoots can eat about 11% of their body mass during a single meal.


Western spadefoots primarily live in grasslands, oak woodlands, and shrublands in floodplains. They live in burrows and use seasonal temporary pools or small puddles of water, even roadside puddles, to breed.


Agricultural lands

Open woodlands

Riparian and wetland areas

Disturbance and Stressors

Loss of habitat (particularly seasonal pools), urban and agricultural development (particularly intense livestock grazing, disking, and contaminant runoff), collisions from road use, natural predators, low-frequency noises and vibrations (including those from traffic or oil and gas exploration), and diseases such as chytrid fungus all contribute to the decline of the western spadefoot.

Habitat fragmentation

Urban and agricultural development

Noises and vibrations

Road use

Western spadefoot. Image via Los Padres ForestWatch.
Western spadefoot. Image by James Bettaso, US FWS.

Sources: Brown 1967, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Natural Diversity Database 2021, Childs 1953, Davidson et al. 2002, Dimmitt and Ruibal 1980, Fisher and Shaffer 1996, Hobbs and Mooney 1998, Morey 1998, Shaffer 2020, Thomson et al. 2016, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2005
Photo credits: California Herps, James Bettaso (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Los Padres ForestWatch