This stoutly built toad is green-gray to dark green in color with pale stripes on the sides. The upper part of the body is covered with numerous bumps called tubercles, giving the skin a pebbly appearance. The tips of these tubercles may be red in color. The large eyes are golden-yellow with vertical pupils. The toad has a black wedge-shaped “spade” on each hind foot which is used for digging.
Like other amphibians, the toad relies on water to reproduce although it will enter a pool of water only to breed. Scientists do not completely understand the reproduction cycle of this animal. Unlike others of its species, breeding among spadefoot toads does not appear to be directly dependent on rainfall although they do need pools of water to lay their eggs. In some cases, the toads may migrate to find water or seek out alternative sources such as irrigated crops. The time of year and frequency of breeding may also change dramatically between populations or even within the same population. Once eggs are laid, they hatch within two to four days with the young feeding on floating detritus. It may take several weeks for young to metamorphose from their larval stage into juvenile toads, at which time they will venture out of their natal ponds.
The toad is nocturnal and feeds on invertebrates such as earthworms, beetles, ants and grasshoppers. Its primary predators include Coyotes, birds and snakes.
The Great Basin Spadefoot can be found throughout western North America as far north as British Columbia and as far south as California. Its eastern boundary ends in Colorado. The amphibian is highly adaptable and can be found in both wet and semi-arid areas within this range. To find moisture in drier climates, it will burrow into the ground using its powerful hind legs and spade-shaped feet; or in some cases, it may co-opt burrows dug by mammals. They will also use burrows to escape cold weather, sometimes tunneling as much as 3 feet (1 meter) below the surface. During this dormancy period, with toad will absorb moisture from the surrounding earth in order to sustain itself.