In 1935 the Queensland Government introduced the cane toad (Rhinella marina) to control cane beetles. The experiment failed and the cane toad population 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 Queensland pest. However, Moreton Island is one of a few locations in costal 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 camping or fishing gear. Watch a video of a cane toad detection dog in action and find out how you can help keep Moreton Island cane toad free.
Cane toads have:
- coloured brown, olive-brown or reddish
- thick, leathery skin
- 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.
Males have more wart-like lumps than the females.
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 and mammals, insects and birds
- 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.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) currently advises the use of a registered aerosol spray that has been specifically developed for killing cane toads as the most humane euthanasia method. Aerosol sprays that contain the active ingredient Chloroxylenol (e.g. HopStop®) are now commercially available for this purpose. Contact your local hardware store to see if they stock it.
Step 1 - Treat each toad with sufficient spray to ensure it is anaesthetised.
Step 2 - Apply a second application of spray after the toad has stopped moving.
Step 3 - After two hours, check the toad is dead and then place in your household garbage. Cane toads can also be buried deeply in a well-contained compost heap as they are a good natural fertiliser. Make sure pets cannot reach this compost.
Step 4 - Thoroughly wash your hands before and after touching 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 the rangers.
Watch a video of a cane toad detection dog sniffing out these poisonous pest toads on Moreton Island.
Download the documents
View Council's document about Moreton Island 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).
To find out more about cane toads, visit the Queensland Government's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website.
You can also find and report sightings of cane toads.