Why Are Cane Toads a Problem?

There were no toads in many parts of the world until Cane Toads were taken from South America in 1930s and brought to other countries, becoming a big problem for many reasons.

Generally, Cane Toads are a problem because they present a threat to local biodiversity, they are highly toxic and can proliferate twice per year laying up to 30,000 eggs per reproductive cycle. Cane Toads can grow large, feed on local species, and pose a risk to human and pet health.

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Cane Toads are fascinating and frightening toads that are thriving in many places around the world including Australia, Florida, Indonesia and Japan, as well as other parts of the world.

Cane Toads Lay Thousands of Eggs

Cane Toads can lay up to 30,000 eggs twice per year allowing them to proliferate at very quick rates.

Most frogs only reproduce once per year, but Cane Toads can reproduce multiple times allowing them to have even higher chances of survival compared to most frogs that also lay much less eggs. They were introduced to environments that generally have tropical, warm, humid conditions in which they thrive.

For example, Cane Toads are not present in Canada or Northern Europe where they would have to hibernate to survive the winter. Thanks to not having to hibernate or estivate in most cases, Cane Toads enjoy conditions that allow them to thrive and reproduce all year long.

Cane Toads Pose a Threat to Local Wildlife

Cane Toads pose a threat to local biodiversity although they were introduced to feed on cane beetles, they prefer to feed on local wildlife. Cane Toads eat small crocodiles, snakes, and lizards reducing the biodiversity of the location where they can be found.

Another threat Cane Toads pose to local wildlife has to do with their levels of toxicity. Even their tadpoles are toxic but at a lower degree compared to adult toads. When an adult Cane Toad is scooped up and eaten by a predator, it has little chances of survival.

Cane Toads can get larger faster, and stronger as they reduce the number of predators around them. 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, whereas most frogs are not saltwater tolerant.

Adult Cane Toads Are Large

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 larger than males.

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Thanks to their large size, Cane Toads are capable of feeding on larger prey compared to most frog species. They eat insects, but also feed on small crocodiles, alligators, snakes, birds, bats, mice, and lizards.

Like many frog species, Cane Toads are also cannibals, and feed on their own species as well as other frog species, some of which are already in danger in many locations around the globe. Their large size reduces the number of predators, increasing the number of other animals they can feed on.

Cane Toads Pose a Threat to Human & Pet Health

Cane Toads are highly toxic to humans and pets and can carry enough poison to kill a small child. If an animals or child ingests an adult Cane Toad, they will have few chances of survival without rapid human intervention.

Cane Toads are some of the most toxic toad species and pose a grave problem to parents and pets in the locations where they were introduced. Parents need to ensure their children do not come into contact with Cane Toads and ingest their poison for health risks.

Pet owners need to keep a close eye on their pets since they may play with the toad thinking it is a toy, increasing the risk of ingestion and need for vet intervention.

Where Are Cane Toads a Problem?

Cane Toads can be found in Australia, Florida, Cuba, Hawaii, The Dominican Republic, Indonesia, 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.

Cane Toads (Bufo Marinus) are native to South America but were introduced to many countries around the world in the 1930’s to kill beetles that eat sugarcane crops. Only 102 Cane Toads were released in Australia in 1935, but there are now an estimated 200 million Cane Toads in Australia.

When Cane Toads were introduced to new ecosystems, 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.

Cane-Toad

Using Cane Toads 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. 

Just like in Australia, Cane Toads are also an invasive, poisonous species to Florida and Hawaii in the United States. They were transported to many countries and islands around the world and have proliferated since.

See the complete list of where Cane Toads where introduced on our blog

How Are Countries Dealing With The Cane Toad Problem?

Australians created the Cane Toad Coalition 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 and 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 given in case of cruel killing practices.

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 (CTNF).

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.

See all the ways to get rid of Cane Toads 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 poison from the glands on their backs behind their eyes. Adult Cane Toads carry enough poison 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 poison to kill a small child if their poison 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.

Sources

Australian Government, Department of Agriculture Water and the Environment, The cane toad (Bufo marinus) – Fact Sheet

The Cane Toad Coalition

Science Daily: Biological Weapons To Control Cane Toad Invasion In Australia

WWF 10 Facts About Cane Toads

MYFWC: Keeping Your Pets Safe Around Cane Toads.

Guinness World Records: Largest Toad.