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23 Jul 2021
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Sanibel OutdoorsSanibel Wildlife


Oh, my, yes! That's another creature you should be watching out for, especially when it comes to your pets' safety.

In recent years, Sanibel has had an increase in the number of cane toads (sometimes called Bufo toads).  They are the largest actual toads in the world, with an average length of 4 to 6 inches long and a large frame (If you close your fists and touch them together by the palms, you'll get an idea of how big they are.).  Originally introduced into the sugar cane fields of Florida in the 1930s and 40s, they were meant to be used as pest control against cane beetles.  They have since exploded in population and are an invasive species in Florida, considered a threat to native wildlife and pets.

What makes them so dangerous is that they secrete a poison called bufotoxin through their skin and behind their eyes.  If a dog or other animal licks or bites it, it could quickly prove fatal without immediate treatment.  Symptoms include excessive drooling or foaming, vomiting, crying, head shaking, lack of coordination, and convulsions and can result in death in as little as 15 minutes.  It has even been known to be fatal to humans depending how they are handled (or consumed...yuck!).  Cane toads can be found after periods of rainfall or in places where moisture is often present (such as by a drain pipe) and eat small animals, but also plants, trash, and dog food (one more reason to keep those supper dishes inside).

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) considers the cane toad to be a threat to native species and recommends that residents kill them, as they are considered a species of least concern, protected only by anti-animal cruelty laws.

If your pet shows sign that they have encountered or swallowed a cane toad, wash the mouth out (making sure not to direct the water down the throat) for ten minutes, wipe the gums and tongue with a dish towel, and get to the vet immediately.  Sanibel is home to Coral Veterinary Clinic (on Periwinkle Way, next to Schnapper's Hots), but for after-hours, there is Blue Pearl Pet Hospital in South Fort Myers on Marketplace Drive, off Daniels Road near Interstate 75, open 24 hours a day.

For more information about cane toads, how to recognize them, and how to keep your property safe from them, visit the Fish and Wildlife Commission's website at

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