Cane toads are shrinking in Cairns as their long-limbed family members leg it to the NT, WA
Cane toads are shrinking in Cairns as their long-limbed family members leg it to the NT, WA

Smaller cane toads signal build-up as larger toads head west

TINY cane toads are taking over Cairns as their long-legged family members push forward on the western front.

Cane toad expert Professor Ross Alford said the number of small toads spotted across the Far North was "mostly likely a matter of turnover".

"They're bigger when they're older and some years they don't fare as well because of the weather," he said.

"But this year we've got a lot of small new cane toads because of the wet."

Far North Queensland toads have been shrinking, much smaller than the toads found hopping around Cairns suburbs last century. Cairns the Gift souvenir shop owner Michael Dean sells stuffed cane toads in his store. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Far North Queensland toads have been shrinking, much smaller than the toads found hopping around Cairns suburbs last century. Cairns the Gift souvenir shop owner Michael Dean sells stuffed cane toads in his store. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

He said the strongest of the bunch were hopping their way out west to cover more ground.

"What seems to have happened is, as they've moved towards the Northern Territory , they've gotten faster and have longer legs," he said.

"So they're not necessarily bigger, just faster.

"But the really big ones are under people's houses eating their dog's food."

Caravonica farmer John Westaway said he very rarely saw toads at his cane farm anymore.

"We don't see them on the farm, just in the backyard like everyone else," he said.

He said it was clear the beefy cane toads of years gone by had hopped out of town.

"I was born and bred here and I reckon cane toads are smaller now than they were back then," he said. "When we were kids they were much bigger. It doesn't worry us one way or the other.

"They didn't do what they were introduced to do so it's fine that they're not on the farm anymore."

His advice to keep them out of backyards was to limit their food sources.

"Try to not keep lights on outside that will attract insects, which they like to eat, especially near crawl spaces under houses," he said.

"Just try not to have an attractive retreat for them. They love anywhere that's dark and damp and hidden away.

"They're very persistent.

"They can climb and jump up to 1m vertically - so it's a big task to keep them out of your backyard."



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