Chaunus (Bufo) marinus Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
Giant Toads - also called Cane Toads or Marine Toads - range in size from 6 – 9 inches and may weigh more than 2 pounds. They were originally released in sugar cane fields of south Florida in an effort to control mice and rats, but they are now found in urban areas, near canals and ponds throughout southern Florida. They eat almost anything that moves, including beetles, frogs, snakes and cockroaches. They are often seen at night, sitting under street and yard lights feeding on insects, or eating from dog and cat food bowls. Giant toads will eat almost anything, including native amphibians and reptiles. In some areas where giant toads have become established, native species have almost disappeared.
These toads are toxic at almost every stage of their lives, as eggs, tadpoles and especially as adults. When threatened, adult toads secrete a white milky substance from the large parotid glands on the back of their head. The secretion is a potent bufotoxin, a skin irritant to humans and highly toxic to dogs and cats. Similar to the heart stimulant digitalis, the bufotoxin produced by the toad can induce a heart attack in dogs and cats. Dogs weighing as much as 80 lbs have died after biting a giant toad. A few years ago “toad licking” became popular among high school students. People lick the bufotoxin secretion off the giant toad’s parotid glands or smoke the dried secretion. Not surprisingly, dizziness and strong heart palpitations are among the reported side effects.
Some Florida predators have learned to feed on giant toads. Red-shouldered hawks and crows have been seen flipping toads over and feeding on them from the underside, apparently without being poisoned.
top of page | back to frogs / toads