Feral Animals

Cane toads

Identifying a Cane Toad

If you find a cane toad trap it live and report your finding to Council immediately.

Cane toads were introduced to Queensland from South America in 1935 in an unsuccessful attempt to control cane beetles, a pest of the sugar cane industry. Having no natural enemies, the toads spread west into the Northern Territory and south into New South Wales. They are now a major threat to native animals on the far north coast of NSW.

Cane toads are capable of surviving in a wide variety of habitats from moist forest to beach dunes, and are often found in gardens and along roads. Terrestrial invertebrates provide the bulk of the Cane Toad’s diet but almost any small animal that can be swallowed is vulnerable to predation. The tadpoles of this species sometimes feed on smaller tadpoles of their own and other species.

Cane Toad Sighting Form

Identifying a cane toad

The Cane toad Bufo marinus L. is a large, squat member of the ‘true toad’ family, Bufonidae. The dorsal skin is very warty, with a greatly enlarged pair of parotoid glands behind the eardrum. When the toad is handled or bitten, these glands exude a milky fluid that contains numerous types of toxins, which primarily affect the heart. Tadpoles, which are black and up to 27 mm in total length, are also poisonous to predators. Although adult cane toads are quite distinct, smaller toads can easily be confused with native frogs. To make sure you don’t kill a native frog by mistake, please take all toads under 4 cm long to a frog expert for identification. If handling them, use rubber gloves.

Take a test to see if you can identify a cane toad.
See what they look like, listen to their croak, then take a test to see if you can tell the difference from a cane toad and a native frog.
Visit the Office of Environment website

Why cane toads are a problem

Cane toads are likely to cause declines in native animals by competing for food with other carnivores, by preying upon small vertebrates (such as skinks) and by poisoning larger predators such as goannas and raptors (as the toad’s toxin is lethal to many of our native animals).

Cane toads in NSW

In NSW cane toads currently exist in a patchy distribution extending from the Queensland border south to Broadwater and west to Lismore and the headwaters of Richmond River Valley. Isolated populations occur at Yamba and Port Macquarie.

The current rate of spread in NSW is approximately 3-4 km per year, but may be punctuated by brief periods of relatively rapid movement in some years. Modelling of the potential distribution of cane toads in NSW predicts range extensions into north-western slopes of the Great Dividing Range and throughout coastal areas, with potential expansion into Victoria. Cane toad populations can reach very high densities (e.g. 2000 individuals per hectare), and there is currently no efficient method for significantly reducing established populations. Trapping has some potential to eradicate small populations or create a barrier to expansion, but is labour-intensive. The potential for biological control has been investigated, but is not promising due to the lack of specificity among control agents available.

Cane toads in Pittwater

Cane Toads have no natural enemies and compete for food with other carnivores, preying on small vertebrates like skinks and poisoning larger predators such as raptors and goannas. Cane Toads have a lethal toxin to many animals, threatening the survival of some of our native species.

The NPWS have reported that cane toads are occasionally found in produce trucks carrying fruit and vegetables from Queensland or the north coast of NSW. Each female cane toad can lay as many as 35,000 eggs at a time and produce two clutches a year, leading to a population explosion.

If you find a cane toad

If you think you have found a Cane Toad, trap it in a suitable container and report it to Council as soon as possible or complete a cane toad sighting form(Opens in a new window). It is likely the toad will need to be examined to determine if it has been breeding.

Tips for Handling Cane Toads

Take care when handling Cane Toads and wear rubber gloves.

Be careful when handling cane toads: toxin is produced in their shoulder glands and is present in the skin of the back. If squeezed tightly the toxin may be sprayed from the glands. When holding a cane toad, use rubber gloves and grip the toad firmly but gently. Avoid skin contact with its toxin, and if it gets in your eyes, nose or mouth, seek medical attention. Remember to report your finding to Council and/or OEH.


Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) — 131 555
Call Northern Beaches Council — 1800 680 244