March 27-- Mar. 27--As toads go, they're super big, super ugly and super toxic.
And they could be invading your neighborhood soon, if they haven't already.
State wildlife experts are now warning all of South Florida that we may be seeing more of the poisonous creatures as the weather becomes warmer and wetter.
They're called by many names: bufo, cane, giant or marine toads.
And if you live in South Florida, chances are you've seen a few around, especially if you live near water or own a swimming pool.
Thousands of bufo toads have sprung up in a Palm Beach Gardens neighborhood, hopping by the hundreds across driveways and heading straight for backyard pools. One woman said she had at least 100 swimming in hers.
For now, the toad infestation seems concentrated in the Mirabella neighborhood of Palm Beach Gardens.
"We are aware of the situation in Palm Beach Gardens," said Carol Lyn Parrish, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "However, we don't really track populations of bufo toads. To my knowledge, I don't have any other reports of large hatching of bufo toad populations [in other neighborhoods]."
The toads are native to the area from the Amazon basin in South America north to the lower Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas. In the 1930s, they were brought to Florida to help control sugar cane pests. Most of today's population came from pet trade escapes in the '50s and '60s, according to FWC.
Parents should also warn their children to steer clear of bufo toads.
Handle them without gloves and their milky white toxins can irritate your skin and make your eyes burn.
Bufo toads can kill your pet in as little as 15 minutes. Animals that bite a bufo toad can wind up dead without proper treatment, warns a news release sent this week by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
"If your pet bites or licks a cane toad, it will likely start acting strangely with frantic or disoriented behavior," the agency said. "It may also have brick-red gums, seizures and foam at the mouth."
If you think your pet has come in contact with a bufo toad, immediately rinse his or her mouth with a hose for 10 minutes, being careful not to direct water down the throat.
Wipe their gums and tongue with a dish towel to remove the toxins from your pet's mouth. Then take the animal to an emergency veterinarian right away.
Bufo toads are most active at night but can be seen during the day.
Unlike frogs, they're brown with light beige bellies and can have dark markings or be uniform in color. They generally range in size from 6 to 9 inches in length and are drawn to yards and buildings near canals and ponds.
If you want to keep them out of your yard, state wildlife experts offer these tips:
-- Don't leave pet food or water bowls outside overnight.
-- Cut your lawn regularly and keep it short.
-- Trim the underside of shrubs.
-- Remove clutter.
-- Keep branches off the ground.
Homeowners who need help removing bufo toads from their property can hire a wildlife trapper.
To learn more about nonnative species in Florida, go to MyFWC.com/Nonnatives.
Susannah Bryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4554. Find her on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan.
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