Cane toads

In 1935, the Queensland Government introduced the cane toad (Rhinella marina) to control cane beetles. The experiment failed and the cane toad population has now spread to New South Wales, Northern Territory and Western Australia. Cane toads continue to move into other states, but temperatures, shelter, food and water limit their breeding capabilities. They are present in coastal dunes, woodlands, rainforest and freshwater wetlands, but can also adapt to urban areas.

Although regarded as undesirable, the cane toad is not listed as a species that must be managed in accordance with the Biosecurity Act 2014. However, Moreton Island is one of a few locations in coastal Queensland where cane toads are not established. The  Commonwealth Threat abatement plan requires the protection of offshore islands to prevent cane toad impacts upon native species.

To deliver this obligation, Brisbane City Council employs cane toad detection dogs. These dogs sniff out cane toads who may have hidden in vehicles and trailers and made their way to the island. This work is complemented by a comprehensive public education program and monitoring water bodies on the island for evidence of cane toad DNA (microsopic cells from a cane toad).

Appearance

Cane toads have:

  • coloured brown, olive-brown or reddish 
  • thick, leathery skin with warts
  • a visor or awning over each eye
  • a bony ridge which extends from eyes to nose
  • small feet, with claw-like un-webbed digits to dig
  • two large toxin-filled parotid glands behind the ears.

They may appear dry, are heavily built and can reach up to 20 centimetres long.

Problems caused by cane toads

Cane toads are toxic at all stages of life. They cause environmental damage including:

  • poisoning and killing anything that consumes them (dangerous to birds and reptiles who mistake them for frogs as well as some domestic animals)
  • eating small reptiles, insects and other amphibians
  • displacing and out-competing native species for food and resources.

Cane toads also transmit diseases including salmonella. They can cause toxic illness or death to humans if venom is ingested or if their venom enters the eye. Symptoms include:

  • accelerated heartbeat
  • breath shortness
  • excessive saliva.

Prevention and control

Cane toad prevention and control is the landowner's responsibility.

Egg removal

Mature female cane toads lay thousands of eggs per season in long, clear gelatinous strands with black eggs. Developing tadpoles appear as a black bead strand and once developed, continue to appear black.

To remove eggs, use disposable gloves and:

  • lift out of water
  • put the egg strand in a bag and throw out, or
  • lay the eggs in the sun and dry.

Humane euthanasia

Visit the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) website for the most up-to-date information on the humane euthanasia of cane toads. 

Fencing

Cane toads don't climb well or jump high. Fencing should be:

  • 50 centimetres high
  • made of moulded plastic or metal.

Note: fencing may also exclude some native wildlife species from the water body.

Natural barriers

Natural exclusion barriers can cane toad-proof areas, provided they are well-positioned with no holes. Barriers include:

  • small, dense bushes
  • shrubs
  • grasses
  • other natural objects including rocks and logs.

Keeping Moreton Island cane toad free

Moreton Island is one of Brisbane’s major natural areas. It is one of a few locations in coastal Queensland where cane toads are not established.

To keep them off Moreton Island, ensure you check your camping and fishing gear before travelling so you don’t take cane toads to the island. You can also report cane toad sightings on the island to a Park Ranger.

View a demonstration of the cane toad detection dogs in the video below.

Fact sheet

You can download Council's fact sheet about cane toads on Moreton Island.

Download the:

Cane Toad Challenge

Council is a proud affiliate member of the Cane Toad Challenge (CTC). The CTC is a University of Queensland community engagement and citizen science initiative. It provides an innovative approach to cane toad management through the baited trapping of cane toad tadpoles. 

Read more about the Institute for Molecular Bioscience Cane Toad Challenge research project.

More information

To find out more about cane toads, visit the Queensland Government website.

You can also find and report sightings of cane toads.

Last updated:23 April 2019