SANIBEL, Fla.- J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) have discovered a population of giant toads, known as cane toads or marine toads,breeding in a temporary wetland near Middle Gulf Drive and Fulgar Street.
Like most other invasive amphibians and reptiles on the island, they did not migrate here by themselves. More likely, they were accidentally brought here in mulch, pine straw, sod, plants, or even tadpoles hiding in a small pool of water on any object transported to the island. This species poses a serious threat to wildlife on Sanibel, as well as domestic pets.
The large glands behind the eyes and above the shoulders (paratoid glands) produce a toxin (bufotoxin) that is both irritating and deadly to smaller wildlife. When a predator grabs a giant toad in their mouth, the toad inflates its body and the toxin oozes out of the paratoid glands into the mouth of the predator. The poison has killed pet dogs in Florida.
There have even been human fatalities from this species from "toad-licking."
The tadpoles are also toxic, which can lead to fatalities in many animals that consume them.
Special care should be taken to prevent dogs, cats, etc from biting or grasping these toads in their mouths.
These are very large toads, reaching up to 5.5 inches in length and possibly near five pounds. They are voracious eaters. They will eat insects, snakes, baby turtles, lizards, small mammals and birds. They will even eat pet food or any other kind of food left outside. It is highly unique for a frog to eat nonliving food. These toads are attracted to bright lights at night because they attract insects.
SCCF says there is a similar native amphibian found on Sanibel. The southern toad is also a true toad. Southern toads are smaller than giant toads (averaging around 3” in length). Young giant toads and adult southern toads are similar in appearance and size. The Southern toad is not toxic and presents no danger to wildlife.
You can find a recording of the cane toad’s mating call athttp://graptemys.com/giant_toad.wav
If you see or hear a giant toad on Sanibel or Captiva, please report it to SCCF’s Wildlife Habitat Management office at 239-472-3984. First, take a picture of the toad, so it can be verified.