Humane Disposal of Cane Toads

Humane Disposal of Cane Toads

Most of us consider cane toads pests; however, they are animals and can suffer pain. They must be handled and killed humanely. In fact, the Queensland Animal Care and Protection Act, 2001, makes it unlawful for us to be cruel to cane toads.

The first step is to ensure that you have identified the animal correctly. As an adult, the cane toad is fairly distinctive: it is larger than most native frogs and has a warty, rough skin on its back. However, when the toad is younger and smaller it can appear similar to some native frogs. If in doubt with your identification seek help before killing it.

Detailed information on the humane killing of cane toads is available in the Australian Government publication, Standard Operating Procedure for the Humane Field Euthanasia of Cane Toads (SOP) which has been based on a comparative study of the humaneness of a range of different cane toad killing methods.

No methods are listed in the SOP as unconditionally acceptable, but there are three methods listed as conditionally acceptable. These are:

  1. spraying with Hopstop®;
  2. stunning followed by decapitation and;
  3. prolonged exposure to carbon dioxide.

A further method, cooling followed by freezing, is listed as not acceptable in the SOP, however, recent research suggests that this method may be more humane than previously thought and may be the most humane and reliable method for untrained people where Hopstop® is unavailable.

The following methods can be used without formal training:

  1. HopStop®

(Hopstop® is an aerosol spray that has been specifically developed for killing cane toads and is commercially available for this purpose.  Information on where to purchase Hopstop® is provided through the manufacturer’s website.

  • Read the instructions on the can carefully before using it and follow them closely.
  • Spray the toad twice, leave it for approximately 45-60 minutes, then dispose of the toad in the rubbish bin.
  • Always dispose of the body; don’t leave it lying around because it will still be poisonous to companion animals.
  1. Stepped Hypothermia
  • Always wear gloves, thick rubber or gardening, when handling toads.
  • Pick the toad up firmly, preferably with your hand over its back, place it in a plastic bag or plastic container and secure. Label clearly.
  • Now place into your refrigerator (at 4°C) and leave for 12 hours. This does not kill the toad but does anaesthetise it. This length of time is essential and the toad must not be moving when placed in the freezer.
  • Next, place the container with the toad into the freezer (-20°C) for at least 24 hours. This last step will painlessly kill the toad.
  • Finally, dispose of the body in your wheelie bin. Alternatively you can bury the body, but this must be deep enough so it will not easily be dug up by dogs or native animals. Remember to wash your hands after each of these steps.

Handling of cane toads is best done by adults. Cane toads can also suffer distress from being chased excessively, so try to make their capture and handling as quick as possible.

The following methods MUST ONLY be used by trained and competent operators:

  • Stunning followed by decapitation can also be used to kill individual cane toads, but this method is only suitable for use by confident and skilled operators with the correct equipment and technique. This method must not be used unless those involved have received appropriate training, as ineffective stunning or unskilled decapitation will result in an inhumane death.
  • Prolonged exposure to carbon dioxide is the most commonly used method for killing multiple cane toads at a time. This method must only be used by trained operators using appropriate equipment. Death must be confirmed prior to disposal.