How to get rid of cane toads as they make their way across Australia

These toads have evolved into a problematic species.

If recent wet weather and floods across Australia weren’t bad enough, some Aussies are now finding their backyards inundated with thousands of cane toads. 

Initially introduced to Australia to combat beetles in Queensland’s sugar cane crops, these toads have evolved into a problematic species, rapidly expanding across the country, especially in the aftermath of extreme weather events.

The alarming growth in the population of cane toads poses a serious threat to native predators due to the toxic substances they release. Their unselective feeding habits worsen the issue, outcompeting native species for food. As they move into urban areas, pets are also becoming victims of the cane toad.

Cane toads, initially a concern for Queenslanders, have become a national issue. With an estimated annual spread of 40-60 km across Australia since their introduction, their invasive march is now an issue for the entire country.

how to get rid of cane toads
(Credit: Getty)

How to get rid of cane toads

To address this escalating problem, the invasive species organisation Watergum is orchestrating a nationwide initiative named the Great Cane Toast Bust. This week-long event, running from January 13 – 21, urges people to actively participate in collecting and humanely euthanising cane toads, toadlets, and tadpoles.

While public involvement is encouraged to combat this national pest, experts caution against using sporting equipment to dispatch the toads. Apart from the risk of exposure to their poisonous secretions, it is inhumane. 

Watergum recommends a more humane approach, advocating the ‘cool and freeze method‘, and suggests collecting cane toad eggs before hatching as an additional control measure. This can be done by following these steps:

1. Put on eye protection and wear gloves to protect your hands when handling the cane toad. If you do not have gloves, you can use doubled-up plastic bags instead.

2. If using plastic bags, put on bag inside the other and turn the bags inside out. Grab the cane toad and turn the bags back out the right way and tie the top. If using gloves, simply place the toad in a plastic bag and tie the top securely. 

3. Remove gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap. 

4. To dispose of the cane toad, put the bag in the fridge (at 4 degrees) and leave it for an hour. This will make the cane toad go unconscious. 

5. Transfer the bagged toad into the freezer and leave for at least 16 hours. This will kill the cane toad. 

6. You can then bury your toad or place it in the compost. Cane toads are a natural fertiliser, and will not harm any worms or plants when put in the compost. Be warned that if you are burying the cane toad, it should be done far away from any areas where your pet frequents and could dig up. 

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