Lake Okeechobee area residents have recently reported finding cane or marine toads in their yards. These large, poisonous toads are one of Florida’s many invasive species.
According to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Services (US/IFAS) publication, “The Cane or ‘Bufo’ Toad in Florida,” by A. Wilson and S.A. Johnson: “In the 1950s, a pet importer released about 100 cane toads (maybe on accident or on purpose, no one is sure) at the Miami airport, and there are other documented incidents of purposeful releases in South Florida. Cane toads have since spread through much of South and Central Florida.”
General toad features include:
• Live on the ground and do not climb well,
• Have stout bodies with short legs,
• Have slightly webbed rear feet,
• Have dry, warty skin,
• Have poison glands (also called parotoid glands) on shoulders,
• Are mottled with various shades of gray, brown, black.
Invasive cane or marine toads:
• Poison glands enlarged and somewhat triangular, tapering back to a point,
• No knobs or crests on top of head,
• Ridge around eyes and above nose.
Adult cane toads measure between 3 and 6 inches long, and some reach 8 or 9 inches. Females have smooth, mottled, brown and white backs. Males have rough backs and are more yellow.
Cane toads are invasive and a danger to pets. The toads secrete poison from the glands on their back. A dog who attacks a cane toad could receive a fatal dose. Symptoms of exposure to this poison include excessive drooling, extremely red gums, head-shaking, crying, loss of coordination and convulsions. If you believe your dog has been in contact with a cane toad, contact your veterinarian immediately.
UF/IFAS suggests that you can humanely euthanize cane toads by spraying them with benzocaine or lidocaine (sold as first aid or sunburn treatment) to the toad’s back or belly, then put it in a plastic bag and freeze it overnight. (It can them be disposed of with the garbage.) Be sure you have correctly identified the toad as an invasive cane toad before euthanizing it. If you are not sure if you have a cane toad or a native toad, contact your local extension office or email Dr. Steve Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org with a picture of the toad.
Other tips from UF/IFAS include:
• Do not attempt to catch a cane toad and release it somewhere else. It is against Florida law to release of any non-native animal in Florida without a permit.
• To help avoid attracting cane toads to your property, turn off outside lights that attract insects, put lights on motion sensors, or replace them with the white bulbs with “bug lights.”
• Do not leave bowls of pet food outside. Cane toads will eat pet food, and if they find a food source they will keep coming back.
• Keep an eye on your pewater dishes as well. Cane toads like to soak in water bowls.
• Keep your yard free of debris where toads may hide during the day.
• Do not leave dogs outdoors unattended at dawn, dusk or at night when cane toads are most active.
• If you walk your dog in the evening, make sure to keep the dog on a leash.
• If you do not want to euthanize the cane toads yourself, you can pay a licensed wildlife removal service to do the job. Those license holders are registered at publictemp.myfwc.com.