Toad or Terror? The growing problem of Cane Toads

Ahh, fall in Florida. So beautiful, so temperate, so….wet?  Yep, hurricane season doesn’t officially end until the rest of the country is shoveling their driveways; and that extra rain and flooding creates the Cane Toad’s favorite party environment here in SWFL. Cane toads, (ie: Bufo Toad, Marine Toad and Giant Toad) are an invasive species,  introduced  in 1955, to control larval pest on the sugar cane crops (which, btw, was exactly why they were introduced to Australia in 1935; a project which failed miserably and has plagued Australian authorities ever since).  This large (4-9.5inchs!), nocturnal, suto-predator is active year round, when the weather cooperates, and is highly toxic to both pets and humans; secreting (and even shooting!) a white viscous venom from glands on both sides of its less-than-svelte body. This thick,  gooey substance generally only causes mild skin irritation in humans (although, I wouldn’t recommend using it as an eye flush) but to smaller mammals, it can be absolutely lethal; with symptoms from even a brief encounter resulting in foaming/frothing at the mouth, vomiting, difficulty breathing, convulsions, paralysis, staggering and (if left untreated) even death. So, ok, this toad is pretty anti-social but his reign of terror doesn’t stop there; not only is he a South American native with zero respect for his local doppleganger, the native Florida Southern Toad; but his predatory nature and substantial size also put him at the top of the food chain in his habitat, feeding on native frogs, lizards, snakes and small mammals, with no natural predators to keep him on his toes…..ah, webs? But before you embark on your next neighborhood toad hunt with the kids, make sure to visit a webpage from the experts to correctly identify which toads are friend, and which are foe. And remember, prevention is always cheaper than treatment, so make sure to check your yard frequently after flooding and always have your veterinarians phone number (and an after hours clinic) in an accessible place. For more information, visit : http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/frogs/canetoad.shtml

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