by CHRIS GILMORE

They are the scourge of many across the Sunshine Coast but an upcoming event is aiming to help combat the curse of the cane toad.

The Great Cane Toad Bust, which runs from January 24-30, encourages people to get out and humanely collect cane toads to remove them from the environment, giving native species a chance to reclaim their habitat. Toad hunters can then log their catches on the Great Cane Toad Bust website to help create an overview of the impact made by the event.

Community toad busts are also being planned, with Sunshine Coast-based Mooloolah River Landcare organising events for January 24 and 27. 

“I plan on trying to get as many people involved as possible,” says Sarah Roberts from Mooloolah River Landcare. “The more cane toads we can get out of the environment, the more time our native animals have to catch up.

“My plan for our event is that we’re going to go out as groups, but I’m going to try to raise awareness and see if people will go out and do it themselves and then they can give us the information or they can upload their results directly.” 

Sarah, who lives in Caloundra West but is originally from Newfoundland in Canada, says it’s important people have all the information they need to bust toads responsibly.

“The biggest thing if people are cane toad busting is if they’re unsure then leave it,” she says. “It’s better to leave a cane toad in our environment than take out a local species. Hopefully everyone’s going to do it humanely. Cane toads didn’t ask to be here, we brought them here.”

She also has a warning for those who might be thinking of clubbing toads with golf clubs.

“With golf clubs, if you rupture the poison glands and that sprays on the ground, that will actually stay poisonous on the ground, so if your dog comes along or a kid or some native wildlife, they can come into contact with it,” she says. “You can wash it away, but if you don’t know it’s there.”

Sarah says there are a number of reasons why cane toads are a particular problem on the Sunshine Coast.

“The clearing of the bush and natural vegetation is one of them; bushfires, which have also cleared areas that cane toads wouldn’t necessarily have access to because of thick vegetation,” she says. “But as well they are prolific breeders and our native wildlife haven’t really caught up to it yet. There are things that are fighting back but it’s going to take a little while longer for the evolution of things.

“Because they’re amphibians they don’t need water to live, they just need moist conditions, but they need water to breed – anywhere, even if it’s just a puddle, they can spawn.”

The Great Cane Toad Bust is organised by not-for-profit environmental group Watergum, whose invasive species manager Emily Vincent says toad busting is vital to control their numbers. 

“Each female cane toad can produce up to 70,000 babies a year, so even removing one female from the environment can greatly impact their breeding capacity,” she says. “Regular toad busting can have a big impact on your local population. If you remove fertile adults before they have a chance to breed, you prevent the next generation.”

The local community toad busts will be held in Mooloolah Valley, with the exact location to be disclosed later to keep numbers controlled, and run from 6.30pm to around 8-9pm. “We’ll see how many toads we can bust and if people want to keep going we’ll keep going,” Sarah says. An information session about cane toads, humane euthanisation and catching methods is also planned for January 22 at 1.30pm at the Mooloolah River Landcare native plant nursery at 2671 Steve Irwin Way, Glenview.

Sarah says she scoped the toad bust site in December and heard the sound of the endangered giant barred frog. 

“It’s so exciting – numbers are in huge decline and even my nursery manager, who is really into frogs, she’s never heard one call either,” she says.

For more details on the Great Cane Toad Bust visit watergum.org/greatcanetoadbust and for more on the local events find Mooloolah River Landcare on Facebook. 

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