The Wiley Cane Toad

Cane Toads – love 'em or hate 'em – ya gotta respect 'em. And it seems they've taken on a new skill set – (or at least a new behaviour being acknowledged by science) - that of being active during the day:

Australian researchers used acoustic tags normally used to track fish movements and discovered that cane toads were accessing a dam during daylight hours, seeking relief from the extreme heat and dryness ^

I have seen plenty of toadlettes during the day, a disheartening sight - it's said that the juv toads will become nocturnal within a few days. I imagine they are biologically programmed to do this so that as they disperse from their breeding sites - the risk of predation by animals that are themselves nocturnal is mitigated.

If you've spent any time in N.QLD, you'll know that cane toads can be seen any time. Especially if the weather conditions are right. The CT below was out at midday - one of the things that gave me pause was it's colouration. It blended beautifully with the background. Not the usual yellow or mottled browns and greys more common in the species.

R. marina formerly B. marinus

Typical yellow form (M)

Motled form (F)

Certainly cane toads are more prevalent at night – but not to the exclusion of daytime activity. Now, to be fair – I spend an awful lot of time staring at the ground looking for critters, so I'm going to see them eh?.

The article goes on to quote lead author Dr Jonathan Webb:

Community groups were saying that if you fenced off the artificial dams that farmers use for livestock you could eradicate toads, so we started trialling that and discovered you could eradicate cane toads from these areas if you excluded their access to water

I don't know the full details of this study. I have no idea how the fences were constructed, what height they were or the materials used. But it's safe to assume a few things.

The fence would have to be in full contact with the ground and probably constructed using mesh (shade cloth or the like). It would also have to be at least 400mm in height and strong enough to take the weight of large monitor lizards scaling it.

Which brings me to my next point. While removing access to water for cane toads seems like an ideal fix - it also means fencing off areas to other animals unable to negotiate such obstacles. But then, I suppose if a waterway is fouled by CT's - the point is moot.

It's difficult not to develop a grudging admiration for cane toads. Their ability to adapt - and even problem solve seems endless. A new trick that the toads here have acquired is, what I like to call - squatting. When a toad feels threatened, it'll hunker down. Flattening it's body against the ground but keeping it's head slightly raised. Presumably to keep an eye on whatever frightened it.

I've never noticed this before. It may be a well documented behaviour, but until now the toads I have seen tend to either just sit still (upright), or - and there is no other way of describing this; they 'plop' away. This cane toad had an injured/deformed forelimb, but these animals are so robust it didn't seem to make any appreciable difference to it - certainly seemed plump enough.


The sisyphean task of culling toads can sometimes be a little overwhelming. There is a real temptation to just go "bugger it" and let nature take it's course.

But that'd be admitting defeat. And I value the animals I share this little patch of earth with - so I'll keep chipping away :)

Identifying adult cane toads is quite simple - they're in a league of their own as far as size and body structure is concerned and the mating call is also unique and unmistakable ...


We've been culling CT's in our garden since 2007 and the current total stands at over 6,700. It isn't unusual to collect over 100+ toads in an evening, however the average is around 20-30 animals.

As I have said in the past. I don't enjoy killing cane toads and I have no time for people who exploit the need to control them by using that as an excuse for being cruel and inhumane.

They are quite incredible animals ...

I sometimes watch them and wonder if it's going to be cane toads that inherit the earth - after we've finished making it uninhabitable for ourselves.

Sigh ... ah well, let's just keep doing what we can eh?

Take Care :)

Here's the overly wordy boffin paper that the ABC article I've quoted is based on:

Behavioural flexibility allows an invasive vertebrate to survive in a semi-arid environment

And if you're considering doing a bit for the little animals in your garden here in N.Australia - culling toads is a good place to start.

Here's a previous post on how to do that humanely: Culling Vrs Cruelty


  1. Really nice frog!! And the call is very interesting, I heard nothing like that in my life. Wow.


Post a Comment