By: Sheila Marie Shaw
Media Contact: Samantha Murray, 352-294-3307, firstname.lastname@example.org
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – That croaking you hear at night might not be your run-of-the-mill frog. In fact, it might even be one deadly enough to kill your dog. During National Invasive Species Awareness Week (Feb. 26 to March 2), researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences want to make residents aware of the danger.
The Cane toad, also known as the Bufo toad, has become an unwelcomed resident of suburban central and south Florida. By establishing itself in yards, golf courses and farming areas and coming out only after sunset to feed, this foreign invader has created a niche for itself. Adult cane toads can measure between 3 to 6 inches and will eat anything that it can fit into its mouth. Tadpoles of cane toads are easily confused with native toads.
The toad is native to Central and South America, said Steven Johnson, associate professor of wildlife ecology and a UF/IFAS Extension specialist, and were likely brought into the U.S. for the pet trade. They are larger than native toads, and have poison glands that are large and somewhat triangular, tapering back to a point, he said. Also, the cane toad has no knobs or ridges on top of the head.
But the biggest danger is to dogs, Johnson said. Cane toads have large poison glands on the tops of their shoulders, Johnson said. With the pressure of a dog’s bite, the cane toad can squirt sticky toxin from the gland into the mouth of the dog, he said.
“You need to be aware of this animal because it’s our worst invasive amphibian in Florida and it’s a potential threat to your pets,” Johnson said. “If your dog does not receive treatment right away and you only clean it out, the dog could perish.”
Johnson suggests keeping a watch on pets when they out after dark. Also, don’t leave pet food out overnight, he said. This can reduce encounters with cane toads.
If you come across a cane toad, wear gloves to protect your hands, Johnson said. “Cane toad toxin can cause extreme irritation and possibly temporary blindness if it gets in your eyes,” he said.
According to Johnson, Cane toads can be humanely euthanized by applying 20 percent benzocaine to their stomach area, followed by freezing.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.