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SCCF: Cane toads multiplying fast in recent weeks

June 24, 2020
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The heavy rains over the last few weeks in Southwest Florida have filled in many temporary or ephemeral wetlands. As with the native amphibian species, the exotic invasive anuran or frog species are taking advantage of many fish-less bodies of water to breed and deposit eggs that will quickly become tadpoles, which will transform into miniature terrestrial frogs or toads.

The exotic giant toad, also called the cane, marine, Bufo or faux toad, has been aggressively breeding on Sanibel and Captiva in the wetlands. Each toad can lay up 30,000-plus eggs, but will usually lay less than half of that. The poison of cane toads is lethal to most native wildlife species, as well as pet dogs and cats.

Cane toads were first discovered on Sanibel in 2013 during frog call surveys by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. At that time, they were localized to a couple of ephemeral wetlands near Middle Gulf Drive and Fulger Street. A quick response by SCCF, the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, and city of Sanibel after detection showed promise in eliminating the new threat, but eggs were already deposited even though every visible breeding adult was collected.

Article Photos

Cane toad tadpole

Sanibel also has one native species of toad - the southern toad - that is easily differentiated from the cane toad by size as adults, but nearly impossible as metamorphosized toadlets or under 1 inch. The main difference is that cane toads have a pair of very large, triangular parotoid glands (poison glands) behind the eyes, bony ridges above the eyes, a more flattened face and can reach 6 inches in length.

Southern toads rarely exceed 3 inches, have small oval parotoid glands behind their eyes, a pair of cranial crests or ridges between the eyes on top of the head, and wider facial profile. The cranial crests form after they are about one inch in length, and toads smaller than that cannot be differentiated to species.

Fact Box

Concerned about pets and cane toads?

So what should you do if you have cane toads on your property and are worried about your pets or wildlife? Although eradication is not possible at this time, removal of the adults will certainly cut down on the numbers, and therefore cause less risk for pets outdoors and for wildlife.

Established by the American Veterinarian Association, the proper protocol for ethically capturing and euthanizing them is to capture the adults by hand (with a glove or using a plastic bag as a barrier) or wildlife tongs, after being positively sure it is not a native southern toad.

If using a bag, grab the toad while using the bag as a glove and pull the bag inside out so the toad is inside and tie it. Gently open the bag while holding the toad through the bag and apply lidocaine or benzocaine (ointment or spray) to the skin of its belly. After 15 minutes, freeze the toad for 24 hours.

To watch a how to video, visit

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife will euthanize cane toads from Sanibel or Captiva if they are brought to them. To contact CROW with questions, visit



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