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Eastern Spadefoot Habitat Project

The Eastern Spadefoot is the only amphibian in its family found east of the Mississippi River. Today, only two areas of Massachusetts appear to host strong spadefoot populations: Cape Cod and the Connecticut River Valley.

Unfortunately, the largest and most reliable spadefoot breeding pool in the Valley was drained almost 30 years ago. Spadefoots are also vulnerable to pesticides, and many are killed while crossing roads, especially during their explosive breeding season.

The Eastern Spadefoot is not a “true toad”, though it is closely related. It’s a short-legged, big-headed animal with cat-like vertical pupils. It spends most of its life beneath the surface of the earth, emerging for one or two rain-drenched nights a year for frantic courtship. Its name–Eastern Spadefoot–comes from the sharp digging claw on its hind foot that enables it to burrow up to eight feet underground.

This amphibian is one of hundreds of animal and plant species in Massachusetts that are in trouble due to loss of habitat. Kestrel Land Trust is aiming to give this one–and many others–a fighting chance by protecting its habitat.

In 2014, Kestrel worked with the Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program (NHESP), UMass Amherst, and other partners to support the population of spadefoots in our region by creating a breeding pool in Sunderland on land that Kestrel has permanently conserved. The pool is monitored by NHESP to observe any breeding activity.

You can learn more about the Eastern Spadefoot here.

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