South Florida now has another pest to worry about: toxic cane toads. The creatures have been reportedly showing up in the region during the rainy seasons. The amphibians are native to South and Central America and other parts of southern Texas.
Experts warn residents that the yellowish-brown toads have warts and carry a poison that could be fatal even to dogs. Worries arise as the wet conditions have given the species favorable conditions to breed.
In an interview with Miami Herald, William Kern, an associate professor at the University of Florida specializing in urban pest management, the cane toads will thrive as long as water is present for them to breed in. He added that they might be popping out of nowhere, and people should expect them to forage and breed.
The toads are classified as an invasive species in more than 20 countries. Furthermore, the toads are considered to be such a threat to pets that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission endorses residents to kill them.
More About Cane Toads
Scientifically known as Rhinella marina, cane toads distinctively have bony heads with eyes over bony ridges that meet above their nose. The toads sit upright and move in short, but rapid hops. Their hind feet possess leathery webbing between their toes, while their front feet are unwebbed.
The poisonous amphibians are thought to grow up to six inches. They have large glands filled with milk-white toxins located on the shoulder, right behind the eye. Although the creatures are generally harmless to humans, these creatures can be deadly to a curious pet that attempts to lick or bite the toad.
DailyMail reports that officials have previously received countless reports of pets suffering from convulsions, loss of coordination, or cardiac arrest after coming in contact with a cane toad.
The creatures were introduced to Florida several times between the 1930s and 1950s. In the early years, the toads were used as a form of biological pest control. Experts believe that the wild cane toads may have also reached the United States after escaping pet importers in the 1950s.
The creatures usually build their homes in urbanized areas and agriculture lands. But according to the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, they can also be found in swamps and floodplains.
Keep the Pets Away
According to experts, if a dog licks or bites a toad, it can swallow the milky-white toxin, causing the canine to suffer adverse effects, and sometimes even death.
Steve Johnson, an associate professor of wildlife and ecology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, says that cane toad toxin can irritate humans' skin and eyes. Furthermore, he adds that if pets happen to come in contact with the toad, owners should bring them to the vet immediately.
The toad species are also a problem in parts of Australia, where they have wiped out native frog species, as they feed on them.
Wildlife officials in South Florida are calling on residents to humanely euthanize the toads if they come in contact with them. However, they also caution locals to correctly identify the creature and not confuse them with native southern toads.