Have you ever seen a large toad with dry, warty skin and enlarged poison glands in your backyard? It might be a cane toad, an invasive species in Florida.
What’s going on?
Cane toads were first introduced to Florida in the 1930s to eat beetles that were preying on sugar cane crops. Though this population did not survive, current populations are believed to be the result of escapes and releases from importers in the 1950s. Cane toads have since spread through central and southern Florida. South of the I-4 corridor, cane toads are found in suburban, urban, and agricultural areas such as golf courses, yards, and similar habitats.
Why it matters.
Although they don’t have extensive ecological impacts in Florida due to their habitat use, they are a significant nuisance to humans and are potentially lethal to pets. Their skin-gland secretions, called bufotoxins, can sicken or kill animals that bite or feed on them, like native animals and pets. Cane toad eggs and tadpoles also contain bufotoxin. Additionally, their loud nightly calls can be a nuisance to humans.
How to identify.
Here are some distinct features of the cane toad:
- Large size – Usually 4 to 6 inches
- Skin is warty
- Colors vary from reddish-brown, dark brown, to gray
- Enlarged, triangular poison glands on the shoulders
- Bony ridge over each eye that runs down to the nostrils
- They LACK ridges or crests that resemble horns on the top of the head
- Call sounds like a persistent, low-pitched, warbling trill
What you can do.
Before doing anything, be certain that you have correctly identified the cane toad so that you do not accidentally euthanize a native toad. If you are still not sure if you have a cane toad or a native toad, please email Dr. Steve Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org with a picture of the toad.
To capture a cane toad:
- Use rubber gloves or a plastic grocery back to hand-capture the toad.
- Once in hand, turn the plastic bag inside-out and tie it shut to contain the toad.
To humanely euthanize a cane toad:
- Once the toad is captured, apply a benzocaine or lidocaine ointment or spray to the toad’s belly.
- Then, transfer the toad to the freezer for 24 hours.
Information from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and UF/IFAS.