The cane toad is a true toad of considerable size. Originally, the species was native to Central America as well as South America. However, cane toads can now be found in a much wider range of places that include but are not limited to the Caribbean, Northern Australia, and a number of islands found throughout Oceania. In a lot of these cases, humans intended to introduce the species to their new habitats, which has proven to be a very bad mistake in hindsight. Here are some of the reasons that cane toads can be considered pests in their new habitats:
For starters, cane toads are an invasive species. This is a huge problem because it means that their new neighbors have no experience with them whatsoever, which in turn, means that they have no proven methods that can be used to handle them. Over time, an ecosystem can reach a new equilibrium because species possess the ability to adapt to changes in their environment. However, there is no guarantee that every single component of an ecosystem will manage to make it through, particularly when the invasive species is as disruptive as cane toads have proven themselves to be. As such, what comes out of the process won’t be the same as what went in.
One of the main reasons that cane toads are so disruptive is their voraciousness. Simply put, the species eats just about everything that it can swallow, which is why they have been known to consume plants, pet food, and household scraps. However, the bigger issue is that cane toads are also very predatory, with the result that they eat a very wide range of living creatures as well. Generally speaking, this means insects such as ants, beetles, and crickets in enormous numbers. However, they are more than willing to eat small birds, small mammals, small reptiles, and small amphibians.
Speaking of which, cane toads have a very potent defense that protects them from a lot of potential predators. In short, they are toxic at every single stage of their life cycle, though they tend to be best-known for exuding bufotoxin from their skin when they are threatened as adults. Thanks to this, cane toads have managed to pick up an infamous reputation in this regard, particularly since so many dogs have been poisoned by either biting or even licking them. Unfortunately, this poison provides the species with a potent defense from a wide range of threats, thus providing them with a major advantage when compared with native amphibians. Still, it is interesting to note that there are some species in the cane toads’ new habitats that have managed to adapt to some extent. For example, there have been reports of crows learning to flip the toads on their backs before proceeding to feed. Likewise, meat ants can swarm cane toads, which can be explained by the fact that the latter’s standard response of remaining still is less than optimal for something that is immune to their poison.
The cane toad species is also a huge threat because it is so good at adapting to their circumstances. In part, this is because they are robust creatures, meaning that they can thrive in a wide range of environments under a wide range of circumstances. However, it should also be noted that cane toads are fast breeders, meaning that they can come to dominate an area within a very short period of time. Combined, these traits enable cane toads to outcompete native amphibians, not least because the cane toads won’t hesitate to feed upon them when the chance comes up.
What Can You Do about the Cane Toads in Your Backyard?
Here are some of the methods used for handling a cane toad problem:
- Identification – It is important to make sure that a cane toad is a cane toad. After all, there are a lot of amphibians that can look like cane toads without being cane toads. There are a number of characteristics that can be used to pick out cane toads. One, they have dry, warty skin. Two, their hands are webbed whereas their toes are not. Three, they have bony ridges over their eyes that run until their snout. Four, they have paratoid glands situated behind each eye. Fifth, they can come in colors such as grey, yellow, red-brown, and olive-brown, which aren’t solid but instead come in varying patterns. Be warned that this isn’t necessarily enough information to identify a cane toad, meaning that interested individuals might want to call in experts so that they can be absolutely sure.
- Prevention – In this as in other things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As such, interested individuals should put serious effort into removing potential temptations for cane toads. One example would be removing rubbish as well as other items that cane toads can hide under during the daytime. Another example would be eliminating standing water because cane toads need to rehydrate themselves about every two days. Besides this, interested individuals should strive to block the cane toads’ access to food, which can mean everything from covering up pet food to turning off outside lighting that can attract moths as well as other insects. Finally, it is worth mentioning that cane toads are bad at climbing as well as bad at jumping, meaning that they can be blocked by a 50 cm-tall barrier of smooth, solid material that has been secured in the ground.
- Elimination – Under ideal circumstances, methods for eliminating cane toads should be reliable but humane. There is a spray called HopStop that can cause a cane toad to become comatose in a matter of seconds, which is followed by their euthanization. Otherwise, there are sources that recommend stunning followed by a killing blow, though this is something that should be left to pest control specialists with the relevant expertise and experience. Meanwhile, freezing and cooling followed by freezing are not recommended. Should interested individuals be unsure about the best way to eliminate a cane toad, they should capture it in a sealable container before bringing it to the local authorities for disposal. Of course, there is also the option of calling in pest control specialists from the very start, particularly since cane toads are poisonous.