Anaxyrus cognatus - (Say in James, 1823)
Great Plains Toad
Other English Common Names: Great Plains toad
Synonym(s): Bufo cognatus Say, 1823
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Anaxyrus cognatus (Say in James, 1823) (TSN 773516)
French Common Names: crapaud des steppes
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.100842
Element Code: AAABB01050
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Frogs and Toads
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Anura Bufonidae Anaxyrus
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B85FRO01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Bufo cognatus
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 22Jan2016
Global Status Last Changed: 11Oct2001
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Common and widespread in western and central North America; no major threats.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Nov1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N3 (22Jan2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Arizona (S5), Colorado (S4), Iowa (S4), Kansas (S5), Minnesota (S4), Missouri (SU), Montana (S2), Navajo Nation (S3), Nebraska (S5), Nevada (S2), New Mexico (S5), North Dakota (SNR), Oklahoma (S5), South Dakota (S5), Texas (S5), Utah (SH), Wyoming (S3)
Canada Alberta (S2), Manitoba (S2), Saskatchewan (S3)

Other Statuses

Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) Schedule 1/Annexe 1 Status: SC (12Jan2005)
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Special Concern (25Apr2010)
Comments on COSEWIC: Designated Special Concern in April 1999. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2002 and April 2010.

This species is widespread but has a scattered distribution of mostly small populations that fluctuate in numbers. It almost meets criteria for Threatened and could become Threatened because of ongoing loss and degradation of habitat, particularly loss of intermittent wetlands from cultivation, oil and gas development and increase in droughts. These threats increase fragmentation of populations and jeopardize their persistence.

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range encompasses the Great Plains, southwestern United States, and northern Mexico, from southern Manitoba and southeastern Alberta in Canada, south to Aguascalientes and San Luis Potosi, Mexico; east to western Minnesota, western Iowa, central Missouri, central Oklahoma, and northern and western Texas; west to central Montana, eastern Wyoming, eastern and south-central Colorado, southeastern California. In the western segment of the distribution, the range extends north through southern Nevada and Arizona to northern Utah and south to Sonora and northern Sinaloa. Distribution in the desert part of the range is highly fragmented (Stebbins 2003). Elevational range is mostly between sea level and 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) but extends to 8,000 feet (2,440 meters) in Colorado (Hammerson 1999).

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Represented by many and/or large occurrences throughout most of the range. Ranked S5 in AZ, CO, KS, NE, NM, OK, SD, TX, and UT.

Population Size: 100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds 100,000.

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: The Great Plains Toad uses some cultivated areas successfully. However, intensive cultivation and herbicide/pesticide use has probably led to reduced populations in some regions. Breeding sites are typically the result of heavy rains and hence not generally subject to loss via water projects. However, suburban sprawl has eliminated breeding and nonbreeding habitats in areas adjacent to growing cities in Colorado (Hammerson 1999), and some adults at these sites experience road mortality. Across the breeding range, populations appear to be localized.

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Population trend is unknown but probably stable to slightly declining.

Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%
Long-term Trend Comments: Likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence, probably less than 25% decline in population size, area of occurrence, and number/condition of occurrences.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Moderate to broad.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Many museum records are not specific enough for resurveying. Precise locations of breeding sites are needed for long-term monitoring.

Protection Needs: Unknown.

Distribution
Help
Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Range encompasses the Great Plains, southwestern United States, and northern Mexico, from southern Manitoba and southeastern Alberta in Canada, south to Aguascalientes and San Luis Potosi, Mexico; east to western Minnesota, western Iowa, central Missouri, central Oklahoma, and northern and western Texas; west to central Montana, eastern Wyoming, eastern and south-central Colorado, southeastern California. In the western segment of the distribution, the range extends north through southern Nevada and Arizona to northern Utah and south to Sonora and northern Sinaloa. Distribution in the desert part of the range is highly fragmented (Stebbins 2003). Elevational range is mostly between sea level and 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) but extends to 8,000 feet (2,440 meters) in Colorado (Hammerson 1999).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AZ, CO, IA, KS, MN, MO, MT, ND, NE, NM, NN, NV, OK, SD, TX, UT, WY
Canada AB, MB, SK

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: IUCN, Conservation International, NatureServe, and collaborators, 2004


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
MO Andrew (29003), Atchison (29005)*, Boone (29019)*, Buchanan (29021), Callaway (29027)*, Carroll (29033), Clay (29047), Cooper (29053)*, Holt (29087), Howard (29089), Jackson (29095)*, Lafayette (29107), Platte (29165)
MT Blaine (30005), Carter (30011), Cascade (30013), Chouteau (30015), Custer (30017), Garfield (30033), Lewis and Clark (30049), Musselshell (30065), Petroleum (30069), Powder River (30075), Prairie (30079), Rosebud (30087), Toole (30101)*
UT Box Elder (49003)*, Cache (49005)*, Emery (49015)*, Grand (49019)*, Kane (49025)*, San Juan (49037)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
10 Upper Missouri (10030101)+, Upper Missouri-Dearborn (10030102)+, Marias (10030203)+*, Fort Peck Reservoir (10040104)+, Big Dry (10040105)+, Upper Musselshell (10040201)+, Middle Musselshell (10040202)+, Lower Musselshell (10040205)+, Upper Tongue (10090101)+, Lower Tongue (10090102)+, Lower Powder (10090209)+, Lower Yellowstone-Sunday (10100001)+, Big Porcupine (10100002)+, Rosebud (10100003)+, Lower Yellowstone (10100004)+, Upper Little Missouri (10110201)+, Tarkio-Wolf (10240005)+, Independence-Sugar (10240011)+, Lower Missouri-Crooked (10300101)+, Lower Missouri-Moreau (10300102)+, Blackwater (10300104)+
14 Upper Colorado-Kane Springs (14030005)+*, Lower Green (14060008)+*, Lower Lake Powell (14070006)+*, Lower San Juan-Four Corners (14080201)+*
16 Middle Bear (16010202)+*, Little Bear-Logan (16010203)+*, Lower Bear-Malad (16010204)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A toad.
General Description: The upper surface has a somewhat symmetrical pattern of large, light-edged dark spots. The skin has numerous small warts. Cranial crests (hard ridges) are prominent between eyes and diverge posteriorly from a hard lump on top of the snout. The parotoid glands (glandular swellings behind the eyes) are much longer than wide. The underside of each hind foot often has a sharp-edged tubercle and a smaller dark-tipped tubercle. Females grow up to 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) snout-vent length, while males usually are less than 3.7 inches ( 9.5 cm). During the breeding season, breeding males have dark, loose throat skin and a dark patch on the inner surface of the thumb. The male's expanded vocal sac is large, elongated, and may extend upward in front of the face. The breeding call is a long, continuous trill or pulsating ringing sound lasting at least several seconds; at close range it is similar to the ear-splitting sound of a jack-hammer. The sound varies somewhat with temperature and size of male; loud nasal quacks sometimes precede the trill. Juveniles have reddish warts, and recently metamorphosed toadlets may be as small as 1 cm. Larvae are initially blackish, then become more pale and mottled brown and gray dorsally; under magnification, the dark skin may have an overlying golden suffusion. The pattern of large paired blotches on the back appears before metamorphosis is complete. The eyes of larvae are high on the head, and the dorsal fin is highly arched. The fins are clear with some black branching lines, mainly in the upper fin. Sometimes there is extensive mottling in the upper and lower fins. The tail musculature lacks an unpigmented band along the lower margin. Larvae may grow up to at least 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) in total length. Eggs are black above, whitish below, about 1.1-1.2 mm in diameter. Usually eggs are in a single row in long strings of two-layered jelly that is constricted between the eggs; partitions separate the eggs from each other. Source: Hammerson (1999).
Reproduction Comments: Breeding occurs after warm rains in spring or summer. Male breeding choruses in a particular site usually last at least a few days but are of variable duration (up to two weeks or more) (Krupa 1994). Females toads are more likely to mate with males that call frequently. However, some males may sit quietly near calling males and sometimes intercept and successfully mate with females approaching the calling male. Individual females deposit clutches of several thousand eggs in shallow water. Larvae hatch in a few days and metamorphose in 2.5-7 weeks. Breeding pools do not hold water long enough for larvae to reach metamorphosis (Krupa 1994). Individuals become sexually mature in 2-5 years. In Oklahoma, this toad commonly exhibited communal egg deposition (Krupa 1994).
Ecology Comments: Postmetamorphic young may form aggregations (J. Herpetol. 27:315-319).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Migrates up to several hundred meters between breeding pools and nonbreeding terrestrial habitats.
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Palustrine Habitat(s): TEMPORARY POOL
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cropland/hedgerow, Desert, Grassland/herbaceous, Shrubland/chaparral, Suburban/orchard
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil
Habitat Comments: Great Plains toads inhabit deserts, grasslands, semidesert shrublands, open floodplains, and agricultural areas, typically in stream valleys. When not active on the surface they usually occupy underground burrows. Breeding sites include rain pools, flooded areas, and ponds and reservoirs that fluctuate in size. Eggs and larvae develop in shallow water (usually clear). Calling males sit along the shoreline or brace themselves on submerged plants.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Metamorphosed toads eat primarily small terrestrial arthropods. Larvae eat suspended matter, organic debris, algae, and plant tissue.
Adult Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: These toads are inactive during cold winter months and during summer dry spells. Most activity is nocturnal, but these toads may active in daytime during wet or humid weather or when breeding.
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 11 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
Help
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Bufonid Toads

Use Class: Not applicable
Subtype(s): Breeding Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including larvae or eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy major highway such that toads rarely if ever cross successfully; roads with nonpermeable barriers to toad movement; urbanized areas dominated by buildings and pavement.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Opportunistic observations of various toad species in lowland habitats indicate regular movements of up to at least several hundred meters from the closest known breeding site (G. Hammerson, pers. obs.). Sweet (1993) recorded movements of up to 1 km in Bufo californicus. In defining critical habitat for B. californicus, USFWS (2000) included breeding streams and upland areas within a 25-m elevational range of each essential stream reach and no more than 1.5 km away from the stream. In northwestern Utah, Thompson (2004) recorded movements of Bufo boreas of up to 5 km across upland habitat between two springs during the summer-fall season. Another toad moved 1.3 km between May of one year and May of the next year; the following June it was back at the original breeding location (Thompson 2004). Most studies of toad movements have not employed radiotelemetry and were not designed to detect long-range movements or dispersal.

The separation distance for unsuitable habitat reflects the nominal minimum value of 1 km. The separation distance for suitable habitat reflects the good vagility of toads, their ability to utilize ephemeral or newly created breeding sites, and the consequent likely low probability that two occupied locations separated by less than several kilometers of suitable habitat would represent truly independent populations over the long term.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Date: 27Apr2005
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 26Jan2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Reichel, J. D., and G. Hammerson
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 26Jan2010
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
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  • Baxter, G. T., and M. D. Stone. 1980. Amphibians and reptiles of Wyoming. Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 137 pp.

  • Blackburn, L., P. Nanjappa, and M. J. Lannoo. 2001. An Atlas of the Distribution of U.S. Amphibians. Copyright, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, USA.

  • CARCNET-Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network
    Available: http://www.carcnet.ca/english/tour/glossary/gptoad/gptoad2.htm Accessed 4 Oct. 2004

  • COSEWIC 2002. COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Great Plains Toad: Bufo cognatus in Canada COSEWIC

  • Collins, J. T. 1982. Amphibians and reptiles in Kansas. Second edition. Univ. Kansas Mus. Nat. Hist., Pub. Ed. Ser. 8. xiii + 356 pp.

  • Conant, R. and J. T. Collins. 1991. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians: eastern and central North America. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 450 pp.

  • Cook, F. R. 1984. Introduction to Canadian amphibians and reptiles. National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

  • Crother, B. I., editor. 2008. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Sixth Edition. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Herpetological Circular 37. 94 pp.

  • Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.

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  • Frost, D. R. 2010. Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 5.4 (8 April 2010). Electronic Database accessible at http://research.amnh.org/herpetology/amphibia/index.php. American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA.

  • Frost, D. R., R. W. McDiarmid, and J. R. Mendelson III. 2008. Anura: Frogs. IN B. I. Crother (ed.), Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, pp. 2-12 SSAR Herpetological Circular 37.

  • Hammerson, G. A. 1999. Amphibians and reptiles in Colorado. Second edition. University Press of Colorado, Boulder. xxvi + 484 pp.

  • Johnson, T. R. 1987. The amphibians and reptiles of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City. 368 pp.

  • Johnson, T.R. 1977. The Amphibians of Missouri. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Public Education Series 6: ix + 134 pp.

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  • Moriarty, J. J. 1984. Amphibians and reptiles of the Missouri River drainage of southwestern Minnesota. Final report submitted to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 19 pp.

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  • Moriarty, John J. 1984-1985. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Missouri River Drainage of Southwestern Minnesota. Funded by the MN DNR, Section of Wildlife, Nongame Research Program. Results in published report.

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