Cane Toads can be humanely euthanised using the Cooling and Freezing Method.
Here at Watergum, we only believe in the humane and ethical treatment of animals, even if they are an invasive species. Cane toads deserve to be treated kindly and humanely, after all it is not their fault they are on the wrong continent, they were put here by US!
The cooling and freezing method involves refrigerating toads for up to 24 hours before transferring them to the freezer.
Follow the instructions below for humane euthanasia and disposal. If you can’t do this yourself, utilise your local Drop-off Station!
So, you have collected a heap of cane toads from your local area, now it is time to humanely euthanise them.
*TIP – If you are toad busting regularly, purchase a cheap fridge/freezer from Gumtree and place in your garage to keep toads away from your household.
Before you place them in the fridge, it is important that they are contained.
*TIP – Put them in a bag and put the bag inside a dedicated ‘Cane Toad Fridge Container’.
Place your container of toads into the fridge and leave the for 24 hours.
*TIP – If you have a dedicated toad fridge, Put the lid on your bucket and place your entire bucket into the fridge.
During this period of cooling, the toads will slip peacefully into torpor, which is a semi-comatose state, similar to hibernation.
When in torpor, cane toads are still alive but are unable to feel pain. This means that when they are frozen, they do not feel any pain and simply slip away.
If cane toads are frozen instantly, they experience the pain caused by ice crystals forming in their veins, which can be significant.
Once your cane toads have been refrigerated for 24 hours, you can then transfer them to the freezer.
When you remove your toads from the fridge, ensure that they are in a comatose state. In this state, they can be easily transferred into a dedicated ‘Cane Toad Freezer Container’.
*TIP – If you have a dedicated toad freezer, don’t put your bucket in the freezer. Select a large container and transfer each batch of toads into it to retain your bucket for further collections.
Leave your cane toads in the freezer for a minimum of 24 hours. This will ensure the cane toads pass away.
Now that you have successfully euthanised your cane toads, it is time to dispose of them safely.
*TIP – Don’t forget to count your toads and log your data in the Watergum Toad Busting Database!
Check the Cane Toad Drop-off Station Map to see if you have a drop-off point nearby.
Cane Toad Drop-off Stations are hosted by volunteers. The map locations are not exact in order to protect their privacy. Click on the map icon for contact details and opening times.
*TIP – Contact the Drop-off Station prior to your toad busting session to ensure they are available to receive your toads
Most Drop-off Stations’ will take live or frozen toads. Just please let them know in advance that you intend to stop by.
Cane toads deposited at Drop-off Stations are used by Watergum for Tadpole Lure Production. You can read more about this process in @@The Science of Tadpole Trapping
If you don’t have any Drop-off Stations nearby, the next best option is to utilise your cane toads for compost production
Cane toads make great blood and bone compost!
Cane toad toxin will break down within a few weeks, although ideally don’t utilise your compost for +6 months.
*TIP – Build a ‘Hot Compost System’ to speed up the composting process! Instructions can be found HERE.
Cane toad toxin is not dangerous for worms and other insects which reside in your compost. However it is important that you protect other animals from your decomposing toads.
Use a compost bin that is secure and has a lid so that animals and pets can’t dig up the cane toads and eat them.
If you are unable to compost your cane toads, you can dispose of your cane toads in council waste collection, however please utilise your bio-waste options.
Some council areas have bio-waste bins, others may have a waste-station that you can travel to.
It is important not to add biological waste to landfill as this results in the production of excess methane which is terrible for the environment.
If you live on a rural property and none of these options are available to you, please simply bury your dead cane toads.
The bodies will decompose and will benefit the soil.
However, it is important that you bury them deep to prevent pets and wildlife from digging them up and eating them.
Why Does Watergum Recommend the Cooling and Freezing Method?
The research to support the declaration of this method being humane is available here and was conducted in 2015. This research monitored body temperatures and the brain activity of cane toads throughout cooling and freezing which shows that they slip into a coma-like state (called torpor) during the cooling period which inhibits brain activity and prevents their brain from recognising the pain experienced from ice crystals forming in their veins which occurs during freezing. This confirms that cooling and then freezing is a humane method of euthanasia.
Controversially, many organisations follow these research guidelines which are out of date. In this document, the most recent research cited for the cooling and freezing method was conducted in 1999 and it was deemed inconclusive (and therefore not recommended) due to the inability to understand the effects of cooling and whether or not they were inhumane. Instead, this paper recommends chemical treatment (despite it being confirmed as inhumane during the study), decapitation and CO2 exposure.
The following points iterate why Watergum does not recommend these methods.
- This method is proven to be inhumane,
‘In the UOW trials, after being sprayed according to the manufacturers instructions, toads exhibited a range of behaviours consistent with distress. These included limbflicking, urination and blepharospasm and avoidance of the spray which included crawling and hopping movements and attempted burrowing in the corner of the container. After a few minutes some toads developed ataxia, and most stopped moving and lay with their chins down until death. The ventral skin also turned red and the average time to death was 19 minutes (range from 5 to 36 minutes).’
- If cane toads are not contained before they are treated, they will hop away and later die in the environment. This means their toxic bodies, in addition to the applied chemicals, will remain exposed in the environment.
- The application of chemicals means that the toads will be unsuitable for lure production. Toads killed with chemicals can not be used for tadpole lure production as the lures are placed in water and we can not add chemicals to the waterway.
Stunning and Decapitation
- Large margin for error and improper execution leading to inhuman torture of cane toads and possible injury of general public.
- Unsuitable for children; risk of improper delivery and injury. There is also a risk of this method being poorly communicated to children and them learning that it is okay to torture animals as a result.
- Method leaves toad toxin in the environment. Bashing and decapitating toads can rupture the parotoid glands resulting in the toxin being splattered into the environment where it still presents a danger to pets and wildlife. If a dog comes along and licks toxin from the floor its life will be in danger.
- Method makes toads unsuitable for lure production. The method can rupture and destroy the parotoid gland which is the part we use to make tadpole lures.
Carbon Dioxide for 4+ hours
- Not suitable for the general public. While more humane than most methods, this method is not practical or safe for use by the general public.
We recommend the cooling and freezing method for euthanasia of cane toads of all life stages as it is the most humane method that is available to the general public.
We would hope that everyone strives to be humane an ethical in their treatment of all living things.