There were no toads in Australia until the Cane Toad was introduced in 1935 and slowly became an incredibly invasive species. This invasive species was also introduced to Florida and other parts of the world but caused more problems than they were set to solve.
Cane Toads are still a problem in Australia and Florida today where they are a foreign and invasive species that proliferates quickly, kills and preys on local native wildlife including birds, crocodiles, snakes, and lizards.
Cane Toads are fascinating and frightening toads that are thriving in Australia, Florida and in other parts of the world where they were introduced to help humans but instead became a huge problem.
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Why Were Cane Toads Introduced to Florida & Australia?
Cane Toads (Bufo Marinus) were introduced to Australia in 1935 to kill beetles that eat sugarcane crops. Only 102 Cane Toads were released in 1935 but there are now an estimated 200 million Cane Toads in Australia.
When Cane Toads were introduced to the Australian ecosystem, pesticides were not used at the rate they are today. And so farmers used different methods to save their livelihood, like introducing another species to eradicate pests that would eat their crops.
Introducing toads to Australia was seen as a good way to reduce the number of beetles that ate sugarcane crops. This backfired because Cane Toads do not climb very well and did not effectively reach the insects they were put there to kill. Instead, they decided to feed on almost everything else in their path, and by 2009 these toads invaded over 2000 km of Australian land and are proliferating at incredible rates killing off native species along the way.
Why Are Cane Toads a Problem?
Cane Toads can lay up to 30,000 eggs twice per year, are poisonous to native Australian wildlife, and have adapted incredibly well to their environment. Cane Toads are proliferating at incredibly fast rates and killing native species to Australia.
Cane Toads keep getting bigger, faster, and stronger as they reduce their number of predators. They have adapted incredibly well to their surroundings. For example, they are also called Marine Toads because their tadpoles can survive in certain degrees of saltwater.
They are poisonous to local species, especially adult Cane Toads that carry enough poison to kill a small child. Cane Toads kill large prey when eaten, including crocodiles, snakes, and lizards.
Cane Toads are also the largest toads on Earth and the biggest one recorded was T2.65 kg (5 lb 13 oz), and 53.9 cm (1 ft 91/4 in) when fully extended. Female toads tend to be the largest.
How is Australia Dealing With Cane Toads?
The Cane Toad Coalition was created to educate native predators to not eat Cane Toads. If a native predator eats a baby Cane Toads, they get sick but do not die. They can learn from this experience and avoid eating Cane Toads in the future.
The Australian Government is working to reduce the number of Cane Toads with scientific research, development, legislature, Environmental Protection Acts (1999, EPBC Act), local management, and funding.
Research on cane toads in Northern Australia has discovered a way to control the cane toad invasion using parasites and toad communication signals, however, these means can be detrimental to local frogs. Humane euthanasia is used in some cases following strict guidelines (source) and fines can be give in case of cruel killing.
Where Else Are Cane Toads an Invasive Species?
Cane Toads are an invasive species to Florida and they are commonly found in suburban areas where there are fewer predators. If mishandled, they can be detrimental to children and household pets.
Just like in Australia, Cane Toads are also an invasive, poisonous species to Florida in the United States. Cane Toads are not native to Florida and were introduced for the same reasons they were added to the Australian ecosystem in the 1930s; to kill pests that fed on cane plantations.
Cane Toads can be found in Australia, Florida, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, and the Philippians where they were introduced by humans. They are native to the Northern areas of South America including Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Columbia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
How to Get Rid of Cane Toads
If you live in Australia or any part of the world that has an invasive Cane Toad problem, you may be wondering how to keep them out of your garden or back yard.
You can stop Cane Toads from entering your backyard or garden by putting up tight, smooth, solid fencing around your yard that is at least 50cm (20 inches) above and below ground since they cannot climb that high and should not dig further than 50cm.
Also get rid of anything that attracts Cane Toads in your back yard, including pet food, compost, and garbage. Remove standing water, pet water bowls, and ponds. Cane Toads are active at night and search for light sources where bugs like moths are present so also turn off any lights that are not in use and that could attract bugs.
Remove anything that could shelter Cane Toads including small rock structures, piles of leaves, shrubs, tall grass, logs, and fallen branches. Be sure to clean up any clutter notably man-made items including pool toys, tarpaulins, bags of leaves, potted plants placed on grass, kids toys, and unnecessary structures (CTNF).
Learn more about how to get rid of Cane Toads in this guide on our blog.
Cane Toad Facts
- Cane Toads are native to South America.
- Cane Toads are not native to Australia.
- Cane Toads are invasive in Australia and Florida.
- Cane Toads eat about anything including garbage.
- Cane Toads are poisonous and can be fatal to pets and small children.
- Cane Toads are the largest toad species weighing on average 450 g (1 lb).
- Cane Toads become adults faster than other Anura in warm climates (within a year).
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Learn more about Cane Toads in the dedicated profile on our blog!
Questions Related to Cane Toads
What do Cane Toads Look Like? As a general rule, Cane Toads are brown-tones with warts and enlarged poison glands behind their eyes. Adult Cane Toads are very large, have plump bodies, short legs, and generally crawl to get around.
What do Cane Toads Eat? Cane Toads eat just about anything they can fit into their mouths including garbage. But their most common feeding habits include insects, scorpions, frogs, spiders, crabs, small lizards, small rodents, and small birds.
Are Cane Toads Poisonous? Cane toads are poisonous and can secrete poisonous venom from the glands on their backs behind their eyes. Adult Cane Toads carry enough venom to kill a small child and kill many of the predators that eat them including crocodiles.
Are Cane Toads Poisonous to Humans? Cane Toads are poisonous to humans and carry enough venom to kill a small child if their venom enters the bloodstream. It’s very important to wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes and mouth after contact with a Cane Toad.
Are Cane Toads Dangerous? Cane Toads are dangerous and can make you sick if their poison enters the bloodstream. If you pick up a Cane Toad with precaution, by the hind legs, wearing gloves, and wash your hands, they are less dangerous to humans.
Will a Cane Toad Kill my Dog? Toads can kill dogs so promptly seek veterinary help if your dog ingested a Cane Toad, notably if they exhibit signs of pawing or foaming at the mouth, dark red gums, vomiting, seizures, disorientation, or frantic behavior.
You can help your pet by completely washing out their mouth with a clean rag, wiping the sticky poison off their gums, and teeth. Wash your pet’s mouth with a garden hose for 10 minutes with their snout down so they do not ingest the water. Be sure to consult a vet quickly.
Are Cane Toads Invasive? Cane Toads are an invasive species in Australia and in other parts of the world including Florida because they can reproduce with up to 30,000 eggs twice a year, are poisonous, strong, and large predators.
How Can You Stop Cane Toads in Your Backyard? You can stop Cane Toads from going into your backyard by getting rid of anything that attracts Cane Toads including pet food, garbage, standing water, light sources, and by putting up a tight smooth fence at least 50cm (20 inches) above and below ground.
Australian Government, Department of Agriculture Water and the Environment, The cane toad (Bufo marinus) – Fact Sheet
Guinness World Records: Largest Toad.