Australians Capture 'Monster' Toad the Size of Small Dog

A "monster" cane toad the size of a small dog has been captured by an environmental group dedicated to wiping out the toxic amphibian, which has killed countless animals since being introduced to Australia in the 1930s.

The volunteer-run organization, Frogwatch, picked up the 15-inch-long cane toad during a raid on a pond outside the northern city of Darwin late Monday.

With a body the size of a football and weighing nearly 2 pounds, the "monster toad" is among the largest specimens ever captured in Australia, according to Frogwatch coordinator Graeme Sawyer.

"It's huge, to put it mildly," he said. "The biggest toads are usually females, but this one was a rampant male ... I would hate to meet his big sister."

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Cane toads, Bufo marinus, were imported from South America during the 1930s in a failed attempt to control beetles on Australia's northern sugar cane plantations.

The poisonous toads have proven fatal to Australia's delicate ecosystems, killing millions of native animals from snakes to the small crocodiles that eat them.

[The giant amphibians have rapidly spread west and south from their original introduction point, advancing about 25 miles per year; some reports say toads on the front line have evolved longer legs to move even faster.

Persistent reports say some Australians lick the toads' poison glands recreationally in order to trigger hallucinations; other reports say dried toad skins; when smoked, trigger an intense psychedelic "trip."]

As part of its so-called "Toad Buster" project, Frogwatch conducts regular raids on local water holes, blinding the toads with bright lights then scooping them up by the dozen.

"We kill them with carbon dioxide gas, stockpile them in a big freezer and then put them through a liquid fertilizer process" that renders the toads nontoxic, Sawyer said.

"It turns out to be sensational fertilizer," he added.