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This Critter Is a Killer!

The poisonous invasive species cane toad (Rhinella marina), sometimes referred to as the 'bufo,' giant, or marine toad, is native to extreme southern Texas through Central and tropical South America, but is now established in Florida and is moving into Georgia.

Why are cane toads dangerous?

Cane toads have successfully invaded ecosystems in many parts of the world. Because of the poison in the toads' glands, many native animals that attempt to eat the toads die. The species are a significant nuisance to humans and are potentially lethal to pets that attack them. Unfortunately, dogs and cats that lick or try to eat this highly toxic toad will be poisoned and can die within 15 minutes if not treated immediately.

Signs of cane toad poisoning in pets include unusually pink or red gums, drooling or frothing at the mouth, pawing at the mouth, seizures, head-shaking, crying, loss of coordination, possibly convulsions, and sometimes cardiac arrest.

If you suspect your pet has eaten or attacked a cane toad, wipe its mouth out with a damp rag and use a hose to rinse its mouth for 15 minutes, making sure the water flows out of the mouth and not down the throat. And immediately contact your veterinarian!

Cane toad eggs and tadpoles, which are also toxic, are a threat to ornamental fish in outdoor ponds. Humans can even be affected since the secretion from the amphibian's parotid glands is highly irri tating to human eyes and cuts on skin.

These toads be should handled with gloves, and hands washed thoroughly after handling.

How did the Cane Toad get here?

Originally released in the U.S. sugar cane fields as a method of biological pest control in the 1930s to help control “white grubs,” the toads became established in southern Florida as a result of an accidental release of specimens from pet dealers in the 1950s and 1960s. Cane toads have since spread through much of south and central Florida. As of 2017, they were established in much of the southern peninsula as far north as Tampa. The yellowish-brown species are now making an appearance in Georgia.

Where are cane toads usually found?

Preferring human-modified habitats over natural settings, cane toads are common in open areas such as yards, golf courses, agricultural areas, and school campuses. The toads eat almost anything and are often drawn to pet food and other food left outside.

What does a cane toad look like?

Cane toads can be confused with native toads, so be sure to correctly identify the species before taking action to remove the invasive amphibians from your property. Here are their characteristics: Live on the ground and do not climb well Have stout bodies with short legs Have slightly webbed rear feet Have dry, warty skin Have poison glands (also called pa rotid glands) on shoulders Are mottled with various shades of gray, brown, black May be larger than three inches (young are smaller) Poison glands enlarged and somewhat triangular, tapering back to a point No knobs or crests on top of head Ridge around eyes and above nose What can you do?

Do not leave food out at night. To avoid attracting insects that attract cane toads, be sure to turn off outside lights around your home, or use motion lights or replace insect-attracting bulbs with 'bug lights.' Remove sources of water/ moisture on your property. Remove debris piles where toads may seek shelter during the day. Block access to compost heaps, A/C units, decks, and around the edges of buildings.

To avoid potentially deadly consequences, do not leave dogs unattended outdoors at dawn, dusk, or at night when cane toads are most active. When walking pets in the evening or at night in areas that the toads frequent, be sure to keep your dog on a short leash. Dogs with a strong prey drive may attack a toad.

If you think you have seen a cane toad, please call the Toombs County Extension Service at 912-526-3101.

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