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Guidance on cane toads, preventing pet-toad conflicts

By CITY OF SANIBEL - | Nov 11, 2020


Due to the recent high volume of rainfall on Sanibel, many amphibian species which depend on seasonal rains have become more visible. One is the highly invasive cane toad (Rhinella marina), also known as bufo or marine toads. Cane toads were first documented on Sanibel in 2013 during a routine monthly frog-call survey. Despite initial efforts to control the spread of the invasive exotic species, the population has steadily increased and has established a permanent presence, mainly because the toads are prolific breeders, laying 8,000 to 30,000 eggs in one breeding event.

Cane toads can pose serious risks to pets and wildlife. They have a big appetite and can eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths. This trait poses a threat to native wildlife and attracts cane toads to residential areas when pet food/feces or garbage is left out. It is not uncommon to see a cane toad eating right out of a dog food bowl left on a porch. This increases the risk for a toad-pet interaction.

Cane toads are not aggressive. However, when threatened, cane toads will excrete a milky white toxin which can be both irritating to humans and potentially deadly to domestic animals and wildlife. Prevention is the best way to avoid an unfortunate and possibly fatal interaction involving a pet. Do not allow pets to roam free, especially at night and after rain, since it is when cane toads are most active. Make your yard less toad-friendly by removing attractants, such as food or debris piles where toads can hide. If you suspect that a pet has been poisoned, seek immediate veterinary attention. If you handle a cane toad, wash your hands immediately after contact.

To learn more about cane toads, how to identify signs of a poisoning and methods of treatment for a family pet that encounters a cane toad, watch www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg1HUuxM7Zc.


CITY OF SANIBEL Invasive cane toad versus native southern toad

It is very important to keep in mind that Sanibel has a similar looking native toad, the southern toad (Anaxyrus terrestris). There are four main ways to tell the two apart. First, the adult cane toad has distinct white blotches on its back; the southern toad does not. Second, the adult cane toad can grow well over 5 inches in overall size; the adult southern toad is much smaller at approximately 3 inches in maximum size. Third, the cane toad’s parotoid, or toxin producing, gland is much larger than the southern toad’s. Finally, the cane toad has orbital crests over the eyes; the southern toad has crests between the eyes.

To learn how to accurately identify toads, watch www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMzLes3BaCo.


Due to their prolific breeding, eradication of cane toads from Sanibel is impossible. However, adult cane toads can be captured and humanely euthanized. To learn how to capture and humanely euthanize invasive cane toads on your property, watch www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCZlSVbOkWU.

The methods discussed on the video are supported by the best available science and are the most appropriate way of humanely capturing and killing cane toads. It is against state law to enhance the spread of cane toads by relocating them from one location to another. Always wear gloves when handling cane toads and make sure to immediately wash your hands after handling.

For more information or for assistance with cane toad identification, contact Environmental Specialist Joel Caouette at atjoel.caouette@mysanibel.com or 239-472-3700.