toadByron Shire Council had a record find this week with the discovery of a cane toad weighing over half a kilo.

Council’s capital works environmental officer, Michael Bingham, found the cane toad on the banks of the Brunswick River near Mullumbimby this week. The female cane toad was over 16cm in length, 11.5cm across, weighed 515grams and according to Council’s cane toad project officer, Wendy Gibney, is the largest to be found in Byron Shire.

“Out the hundreds caught at Byron Shire’s first cane toad muster in 2006, the heaviest was 325grams. Big Bertha takes first prize,” Ms Gibney said.

As part of her research, Ms Gibney is studying the diets of toads in Byron Shire and was surprised at the contents found within Big Bertha (as she’s become known to staff).

“Cane toads are not known for eating seafood and yet a stomach analysis showed this big lady had recently eaten five crabs and three molluscs,” Ms Gibney said.

“It demonstrates yet another habitat in which these pests can have a significant detrimental impact.

“Big Bertha was full of eggs so she was caught just in time. Cane toads can lay up to 35,000 eggs per breeding season.”

As part of their ‘Getting a Grip on Cane Toads’ NSW Government Environmental Trust Project, Byron Shire Council is holding a Cane Toad Muster at West Byron Wetlands on Friday 3 April 2009.

A ‘Frog and Toad’ seminar will begin at the Wetlands interpretive centre at 6pm. Mustering will commence from 7pm until 9pm.

“We encourage anyone who is interested to come along to learn about our native frogs, how to identify them and how to help improve their habitat. The threats that cane toads pose for our local biodiversity will be also be discussed,” said Ms Gibney.

“Everyone is invited to be Toad Busters for an evening and try to catch a toad bigger than Michael’s 515 gram giant. There will be a prize for the largest toad caught during the evening.”

Cane Toad Busters are advised to wear covered shoes, long-sleeved shirt and long pants and to bring a torch. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Further information on cane toads can be found on Council’s website www.byron.nsw.gov.au/weeds-and-pests/cane-toads/

For more information on getting involved in the muster, contact Wendy Gibney on 6626 7000.

Cane toad facts:

Cane toads are a serious threat to the unique native wildlife in New South Wales because:

1. Cane toads invade the habitats of native frogs and eat their food. They have a huge appetite, and even eat small lizards and frogs

2. Cane toads poison other animals which try to eat them, including quolls, goannas, kookaburras, herons and domestic pets

3. Native frogs are killed when mistaken for cane toads.

What you can do to make your home cane toad free  —  remove toad temptations:

1. Cover or bring in pet food in at night, as it attracts cane toads.

2. Remove standing water. Toads need access to water every two days to rehydrate.

3. Remove rubbish and other debris where cane toads will find shelter during the day.

4. Keep your outside lights off when not needed. Cane toads like night-time lighting because it attracts moths and other insects for them to feast on.

How to keep cane toads out:

1. Toads are not good at climbing or hopping.

2. Use a barrier made of a smooth solid material, at least 60cm high and secured into the ground.

3. Dispose of toads thoughtfully. Even freshly killed toads can poison animals. Place them in your covered compost or garbage bin. Composted toads make great fertilizer.

Picture by PETER GIBNEY