The dangers of cane toads and how to spot them

Published: October 19, 2021 4:55 PM EDT
Updated: October 20, 2021 8:05 AM EDT

Cane toads are invasive here in Southwest Florida and they can be lethal to pets. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is tracking and trapping toads with the help of overseas tech.

They use traps manufactured in Australia and while researchers say the traps are successful, they’re not the final solution to the cane toad problem.

Andreas Kunz of Naples knows firsthand what it’s like for a beloved pet to encounter a cane toad, it happened to his dog Dembe. “We didn’t imagine it would happen to us,” Kunz said. “He started foaming out of his mouth. He started shaking like he’s getting a seizure, but he was a little puppy.”

That’s because cane toads have poisonous glands. The puppy survived and the incident inspired Kunz to take action. “I went to a friend of mine who has a pest control company and asked him if he can help me come up with a formula to repel cane toads so they don’t even come to your property.”

He’s not the only one trying to control the cane toad population. Melinda Schuman, a biologist with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida is too. “These traps, they’re manufactured in Australia, we were able to bring a handful of them over for research purposes.”

A trap made in Australia that is used to lure and trap cane toads. (Credit: Conservancy of Southwest Florida)

Schuman works with its cane toad research program, where they track and trap cane toads. The Australian traps aren’t available in the U.S., but they’ve been successful for conservancy researchers. “The call of the male cane toad is put on this little speaker, and it hangs in here in the trap,” said Shuman.

The call then lures the toads in through a one-way door. Schuman said, “they won’t be the answer to the cane toad problem. Really most importantly, what we know is that just hand removal by well-trained, hopefully ethically trained pest control groups are the best way to manage in larger areas, but this could be a tool, that homeowners, that perhaps, you know, they just have a few toads around their house that they just like to keep the numbers down.”

On the left, a native southern toad. On the right, a cane toad. (Credit: Conservancy of Southwest Florida)

The above photo from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida shows the difference between a native southern toad and a cane toad. While the southern toad on the left has crests between the eyes, the cane toad’s head is flat between the eyes.

The Conservancy says refrigeration for a few hours (until the toad is asleep) followed by freezing is the best way to humanely euthanize a cane toad.

If your pet licks one, you should use a damp cloth to wipe out their mouth while rinsing the cloth in between wipes and call your local vet.