Thousands of cane toads swamp urban waterway as Aussies urged to cull pests

Here's exactly how you can humanely euthanise them, without any risks.

As tens of thousands of baby cane toads continue to sweep across parts of Queensland, inundating local communities, Aussies up and down the coast have been urged to "head out and make a real difference" and catch as many of the invasive animals as they can.

Late in December, residents of a Gold Coast suburb infested with "millions" of baby cane toads were left in disbelief over the sheer number of toxic amphibians roaming their streets. Tugun resident Jonathan told Yahoo News Australia the tiny toadlets had surrounded his family home and were jumping up at his back door.

Cane toads swamp Queensland

Jonathon's story is just one of many from all over the state, with experts now urging Aussies to participate in "The Great Cane Toad Bust", which kicks off from January 13 and runs until the 24th. Cane toad "busting" simply refers to catching the toxic animals and humanely euthanising them.

The cane toads in huge numbers outside a Gold Coast complex.
The cane toads have swamped a Gold Coast complex, with residents baffled by the explosion in numbers. Source: Supplied

Stunning vision of the invasive species shared on social media

In the last month, remarkable images have been shared from all over the Queensland coast showing roads swamped with baby cane toads and rivers — even in urban areas such as Brisbane — overrun with tadpoles.

In one video posted to social media, a man captured thousands of cane toad tadpoles in a river in Brisbane's north.

"There must be thousands of them," he said. "Look at them, unbelievable, all swimming around without a care in the world. There has to be a couple of thousand of them at least, look how dense they are there."

Cane toads are a notorious pest and wreak havoc across Queensland every year, with fears it's only a matter of time before they become widespread further down the coast in Sydney.

Experts urge Aussies to humanely euthanise the pests

The toads can impact agriculture and lead to the poisoning of thousands of pets annually thanks to toxins they release. In severe cases, pets can die in just 15 minutes after being poisoned.

Baby cane toads, like the ones affecting the Tugun residential complex, are also poisonous. Female cane toads can lay up to 25,000 eggs at a time — and in fact 70,000 in one single year.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Nikki Tomsett, Invasive Species Project Officer for Watergum explained the best way to kill the animals humanely and without posing any risk to yourself, or your pets.

She warned that while “we’re not going to eradicate cane toads from Australia", with the country too vast and populations too well established, "we can impact populations locally by toad busting and tadpole trapping."

Thousands of cane toads seen in a Brisbane waterway.
A Brisbane waterway was overrun with the toxic tadpoles. Source: X

"Some studies show that cane toad busting can remove up roughly a third of the local cane toad population. Cane toads can live for more than 10 years and a single female cane toad can produce up to 70,000 tadpoles a year, so by regularly going out our toad busters see a real difference," she told Yahoo.

"There are no native toads in Australia, which makes it easy to learn how to identify cane toads and make a difference in your local area. Key things to look for are paratoid (poison) glands on the shoulders, and the bony eye brow ridge — these are two features that distinguish cane toads from native frogs.

By killing cane toads, food resources freed for native animals

Tomsett said that by controlling cane toad populations, it means food resources will be "freed up" for native wildlife and gives pet owners peace of mind, "knowing their animals are safer being let out at night.”

“If you see a cane toad, the best thing to do is pick it up, put it in a bucket or container in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours," she said. "This cools the toad down and puts it into torpor, a state similar to hibernation. You can then move the toad into the freezer, which "euthanises the toad without any pain”.

“Cane toads pose a risk to populations of native wildlife, poison domestic pets and even impact local agriculture, as they eat bees and dung beetles.

"[They have caused] population crashes in native wildlife such as goannas and freshwater crocodiles... and continue to cause declines even where populations have been long-established. Recently a local toad buster in Northern NSW found their friendly carpet python dead with a cane toad in it's stomach.

Cane toads are toxic at every life stage, she continued, from eggs through to adulthood and even after death. People should wear gloves when handling the animals and responsibly dispose of them by not leaving them in the environment, where they can still pose a risk to wildlife and pets.

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