Nov 20, 2012

Remember November: Cane Toads

It was less than a second after I spotted the cane toad that I realised I was about to watch it die.

It was just last night. I had pulled up at the Albion five-ways, waiting for a light to go green, allowing me to make a right hook turn.

Then I noticed something small flop on the bitumen about 10 metres in front of my car.

The toad was halfway across the opposite side of the road, jumping limply towards the median strip. Goodness knows how it had even got that far alive. Cane toads are not the fastest of movers, and this one seemed particularly sluggish.

A red car zoomed towards the toad, but missed it by a few centimetres.

The toad flopped itself forward again, enough to be directly underneath the body of a silver car that just then whizzed over it.

By now I was watching with a tightness in my throat, the sense of inevitability almost oppressive, despite only three or four seconds having passed.

The toad made a final leap towards the strip. It was about a metre away, but it may as well have been a  different planet. The toad was doomed.

A white van tore down the slight decline at the other end of the fiveways, and within a second was upon the toad.

Its front wheel perfectly aligned with the cane toad, and with a crunch, and a sharp flip onto its back, the toad was dead. The van carried on.

I let out a breath I didn't realise I'd been holding. Then, with a gape in the traffic and my light green, I made my right turn.

The toad was belly up, pale in the light of the street lamps. I steered my Yaris around the corpse and left it in the rear view.

Not the actual cane toad. This cane toad is an actor,
taking part in a re-enactment.

I'm not sure why I felt for the cane toad. They're horrible things, an introduced pest that's caused untold damage to the state's biodiversity. I've run over my fair share during the height of summer, when they swarm across roads in suburban areas. The popping sound as tyres roll over them would be familiar to most Queenslanders.

Indeed, most Queenslanders would gleefully admit to having the blood of dozens of cane toads on their hands - or more likely, on an old cricket bat or golf club.

We weren't big golfers in my family, but still we had an old bronze-coloured nine-iron, kept specifically for use smashing toads from the edges of our property back into the scrub bush from whence they had come.

I seem to have a fuzzy memory of someone in the neighbourhood putting a bunch of toads in an empty petrol can, then setting them on fire. Crackle, crackle.

Nowadays, such relish in destruction is frowned upon - the sanctioned disposal method is placing collected cane toads in a plastic bag, then placing said bag in the freezer. It's the most humane way - although forgive me if I've never been very keen on having toad eyes stare at me when I reach into the freezer to retrieve some chicken nuggets.

But for a moment, I felt for that cane toad, or at least, I felt the responsibility of bearing witness to the extinction of a life.

I got over it within seconds. It was, after all, a cane toad.

What creative methods of death have you seen visited upon the cane toad?


  1. While working as a mild mannered research chemist I used a variation of the freezer. Two words Liquid Nitrogen.

  2. All I can think about now is Frogger.

  3. tying three together with fishing line and throwing them onto the power lines. Swing, swing, toady liquid.

  4. Air rifle loaded with a metal skewer. My mate was a child prodigy of Vlad The Impaler.

  5. Spud gun. With Mr. Cane Toad cast as "Spud".