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 officially declared a pest in Queensland. However, Moreton Island is one of a few locations in coastal Queensland where cane toads are not established. Brisbane City Council employs cane toad detection dogs to sniff out cane toads who may have hidden in vehicles and trailers and made their way to the island.
Cane toads have:
- coloured brown, olive-brown or reddish
- thick, leathery skin with warts
- a visor or awning over each eye
- bony ridge 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 in length.
Problems caused by cane toads
Cane toads cause environmental damage including:
- producing venom toxic to native species
- having toxic life stages
- affecting water quality
- eating small reptiles, mammals, insects, birds and other amphibians
- displacing and out-competing native species for food and resources.
Cane toads also transmit diseases including salmonella and can cause toxic illness or death to humans and domestic animals 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.
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 bag and throw out or
- lay the eggs in the sun and dry.
Refer to 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.
Cane toads don't climb well or jump high. Fencing should be:
- 50 centimetres high
- made of moulded plastic or metal.
Please note that fencing may also exclude some native wildlife species from the water body.
Natural exclusion barriers can cane toad-proof areas, provided they are well-positioned with no holes. Barriers include:
- small, dense bushes
- other natural objects including rocks and logs.
Beautiful 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 bring any hidden and unwanted guests to the island. You can also help us keep them off Moreton Island by reporting cane toad sightings on the island to a Park Ranger.
Watch a video of a cane toad detection dog sniffing out cane toads on Moreton Island.
Download the documents
View Council's document about Moreton Island to find some tips about cane toads.
- Keep cane toads off Moreton Island fact sheet (PDF - 1Mb)
- Keep cane toads off Moreton Island fact sheet (Word - 252kb).
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 that 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.
To find out more about cane toads, visit the Queensland Government's website.
You can also find and report sightings of cane toads.