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Toxic Bufo toads are back in SWFL

The invasive toad's toxin is deadly for small animals
Posted at 5:23 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 07:30:53-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — The rainy season has returned in Southwest Florida so that means the toxic bufo toad or cane toad is back as well. It’s mating season and we are starting to see more hop around local neighborhoods.

The toads were originally brought to Florida as a means of pest control.

“These cane toads were introduced as a possible control of a beetle on sugar cane,” says Dr. Win Everham, a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. He works in the Department of Ecology and Environmental studies and says the toads were originally thought to be a good idea.

"So they're in Australia, they're in Hawaii, they're in South Florida because we thought it would be good to bring them in, we've started to learn how often that's a really bad idea, you know, to bring things from someplace else,” he explains.

The toads have glands on their neck and back that secrete a toxic poison. It’s a way for the toads to protect themselves against predators but for pets that might get curious and lick the toad or pick it up in its mouth, it could be deadly.

Professor Everham says it happened to his 90-pound dog.

"So mine came in anxious, you know, kind of excited, but stressed excited. Panting, so one aspect is elevated heart rate, and that salivating,” he explains. His dog ended up being ok because of its size but a smaller animal may not have been as lucky.

Dr. Emily Huetten with East West Veterinary Care Center in Cape Coral says they hear about and see cases of poisoning from toads all the time.

The signs to look for are salivation, head shaking, and pawing at the mouth. If you notice this or see your dog lick a bufo toad you should seek emergency care immediately. She says while you’re waiting for care, you can also wash the animal's mouth out with hose water being careful not to let it go into the back of their throat or wipe their tongue, lips, and mouth with a wet cloth.

Dr. Everham doesn’t think we’ll ever see the Cane toad eradicated. It’s going to take work from the entire community to get the population under control again in Florida. For him, it’s an easy decision when he sees one in his yard.

“When I find cane toads around my yard, I end their lives. I try to try to do it not in a stressful way. But it's, I think part of the long-term solution will be bringing balance back into the populations,” says Everhman.

There are humane ways to kill the toads which include placing it in the refrigerator for several hours and then placing it in the freezer for 24 hours. There are also companies locally that specialize in killing the frogs in your neighborhood.

The owner of Canetoadremoval.com says it’s a growing problem and they can’t do it alone. He and his team work in the overnight hours when the toads are roaming to hunt them and dispose of the toads. He’s even written a letter to the Governor recently asking for help with controlling the Cane toads in the state.

To learn more about how to identify a Cane or Bufo toad you can visit FWC’s web guide.