The red line representing the cane toad incursion into NSW comes down as far as Yamba on the Clarence River, north-east of Grafton.
Cane toads are invasive pests that are poisonous at every stage of their life cycle, and they make a lethal meal for domestic pets and native animals.
They're increasingly being found on the Coffs Coast, arriving as hitchhikers stowed away in trucks, cars, caravans, pot plants, building and landscaping materials.
Related: Cane toad found in Urunga
The buffer zone of the Clarence Valley, shown in yellow on the map above, divides the green area with established cane toad populations from our red biosecurity zone which is still cane toad free, apart from the occasional unwelcome traveller.
It's crucial that we don't let them establish a breeding population here, so a project to develop a local Cane Toad Response Plan is underway.
As part of that the Jaliigirr Biodiversity Alliance is running a series of information and training workshops this month in Bellingen, Boambee and Woolgoolga.
Brad Nesbitt from Brierfield-based Canines for Wildlife is presenting the workshops, but no doubt the stars of the show will be the animals.
A live male cane toad that their business is allowed to keep for training purposes will be coming along, and so will their Border Collie Fenrir, who will demonstrate his detection skills by finding where the caged toad has been hidden.
The Frogarium in Coffs will also be sending a selection of large native frogs, including the rare and endangered Giant Barred Frog, which tragically people often kill in the mistaken belief that they've captured a cane toad.
Brad Nesbitt said the first recorded instance of a cane toad in the Coffs Coast area was in 1988, with regular sightings since then.
"It varies - in 2009 there were six that came through - but most years it's one or two," he said.
On one occasion in Bellingen, a bunch of them turned up together.
"We're pretty sure it was someone who had moved packing crates from Brisbane," Brad said. "That was 2008 and we picked up four cane toads.
"We really dodged a bullet because the location wasn't far from the creek area behind Planet Lighting. If they'd got into there and started breeding, we would've had a fair bit of work to control that incursion."
There are still spaces available for the Bellingen Cane Toad and Native Frog Workshop, which is being held on Thursday 18 March, 6pm - 8.30 pm.
Participants will learn about cane toad and native frog ecology, what to do if you find a suspected cane toad and how you can keep our region cane toad free.
As it's easy to mistake a native frog for a cane toad, the key message is 'Catch it, don't kill it'.
Carefully catch the animal wearing gloves, glasses and long sleeves and place it in a ventilated container with a little water. Then take a photo and submit a report to the Department of Primary Industries (DPI).
"The DPI has people available seven days a week on a roster," Brad said. "They'll respond and say 'that's definitely a cane toad, could you please take it to a vet' or if it's a native frog, which is often the case, they'll say 'it's a native frog, please let it go'."
Cane toads were deliberately introduced from Hawaii to Australia in 1935 to control scarab beetles that were pests of sugar cane. Since then, the range of cane toads has expanded through Australia's northern landscape and they are now moving westward at an estimated 40 to 60 km per year. In February 2009, cane toads crossed the Western Australian border with the Northern Territory (over 2000 km from the site they were released 74 years before). To the south, cane toads were introduced to Byron Bay in 1965 and then spread to Yamba and Port Macquarie on the north coast of NSW in 2003.
Cane toads are considered a pest in Australia because they:
- poison pets and injure humans with their toxins
- poison many native animals whose diet includes frogs, tadpoles and frogs' eggs
- eat large numbers of honey bees, creating a management problem for bee-keepers
- prey on native fauna
- compete for food with vertebrate insectivores such as small skinks
- may carry diseases that are can be transmitted to native frogs and fishes.
Cane Toad and Native Frog Workshops
Numbers are limited so please follow the relevant link to register:
Workshop 1: - Boambee, Thursday 11 March, 6pm - 8.30pm
Workshop 2 - Bellingen, Thursday 18 March, 6pm - 8.30 pm
Workshop 3 - Woolgoolga, Thursday 25 March, 6pm - 8.30 pm
Light supper and refreshments provided at each workshop and COVID-19 safe protocols will be observed.