Three teams went up to the cane toad front over the weekend. A total of 274 adult cane toads were caught. Over half of these were females. Our team for the weekend estimate that we saved a potential five million, seven hundred thousand potential eggs being laid in the system.
The triple J team took 3 4W/D quad bikes into the general Fitzroy Community area and managed to map and toad bust some 45km west along the Victoria River . The teams exercise involved removing tadpoles and metamorph’s from the isolated billabongs found along the eastern side of the Victoria River . Cam and Jeff ‘reckon they got the bloody lot’. It was confirmed that the cane toad front incursion is definitely 45 km further west than first thought. Initial thoughts were that the cane toad front incursions along the Victoria River were possibly only as far as the Coolibah Crocodile Farm.
The exercise undertaken by Jeff and Cam & Co also indicated that Quad bikes were the only way we (Kimberley Toad Busters) were going to be able to monitor and toad bust in the general Fitzroy Station area during the wet season.
A further Quad bike exercise is being planned by the Kimberley Toadbusters for the weekend of the 20 th and 21 st December. CALM have been approached for the ‘loan’ of their Quad bikes (based at Coolibah Station) for this weekend exercise. Kimberley Specialists have also approached STTF to provide Quad bikes for the long term management of the cane toad situation by our Kimberley Toad Busters. It is planned to hit the general area of Fitzroy throughout the wet, so quad bikes are crucial.
The second team led by Dave Woods and Chris Shaw reconnoitred and mapped a number of potential creek and water systems (during the night) along the Victoria Highway between Timber Creek and Fitzroy Station. Toads were busted at Brumby Creek. The team felt that Brumby Creek was about as far west along the highway that cane toads have reached at this point in time.
Mmmmm! I should smile!
Removing both breeding adult toads and their eggs and tadpoles from this system over the next couple of weeks is crucial.
The general conclusion from the Toad Busting exercise in and around the Fitzroy Station area is that the Kimberley Toad Busters definitely need quad bikes if we are going to be able to access some of the more remote cane toad inclusions over the wet season.
Dean and I took a small team of 10 up to the Victoria River Road house. 14 year old Page Fitzgerald from Wyndham won the ‘first to spot a cane toad’ award for the day. Georgina Wilson (who has not missed a toad busting week end) was our star cane toad habitat observer. Without Georgina the toad busting exercise at the Buffalo Wallow at midday on Sunday would not have been as successful as it turned out to be. I personally walked over at least five toads without spotting them. Once Georgina ‘spotted’ we were okay. Results from this particular toad busting exercise have now confirmed that in some locations we can toad bust during daylight hours.
Areas Toad Busted over the weekend!
Joe’s Creek! Our small team of 10 people arrived at Joe’s Creek at around 3.30pm on the Saturday afternoon. National Geographic journalist and photographer David Wright joined us for the evening and took some wonderful footage of the toad busting activities at Joe, Creek near the Bridge (not within the designated National Park zone). Several hours were spent testing the effectiveness of the Leaf Blower, pit traps and trawling a 4 metre fine meshed net. Ten’s of thousands of cane toad tadpoles and metamorph’s were removed from the creek system, using hand held nets, a drag net, hand dug Pit Traps and a Leaf Blower. We busted this creek system again at around midnight and on Sunday on our return to Kununurra. On the ‘night’ run our team members were under the impression that there were no toads and only after a walk down the creek bed (approximately 1.5 km) we observed toads. These were busted.
a) All the toads were sitting in water and resting on rocks (an amazing total of 48 were caught over two busts) and there was a complete absence of native frog activity. A further walk down the creek system (approx. 100 metres) indicated no toads and thousands of native frog activity. This designation of ‘territory’ has now been observed in the field by our toad buster’s a number of times. The collective thought is that in the early stages of toad infestation there is a definite ‘territorial’ move by both toads and native frog species. A reasonable ‘balance’ seems to operate until the competition for food resources begins. This may not occur until there are three or four generations of toads and the obvious presence of really large numbers. We need to try and understand what this means? Our toad busting team has been collating this and other field observations for the past three months and hopefully this will assist scientists towards working out the behavioural pattern of cane toads.
b) An additional concern raised about what was actually happening at Joe’s Creek since the arrival of the cane toads was expressed by local Aboriginal people from Innesvale Station (family of Bill Harney). It appears that they have been netting their bait from this creek system for a number of years and when they netted while our Toad Busters were there, all the bait caught in the nets (Stripes) were dead! Anecdotal and observed information is also collected by our Kimberley Toad Busters
c) The use of the drag nets and the Leaf Blowers indicate that these methods are the most efficient methods of removing cane toad tadpoles and metamorph’s. Hand held nets, while quite efficient, are slow and time consuming and require dozens of volunteers per infested water system. The behavioural pattern of both stages indicate that tadpoles and metamorphs’s tend to congregate near the edges of pools and billabongs and using a suction hose enables both to be forced into a fine meshed bag and then disposed of. Constant checking of the bag ensures that if any natives are being sucked into the system, they can be safely removed. General observations indicate that when the metamoph stage of the cane toad is achieved (particularly if the infestations is in the tens of thousands), native tadpoles are few and far between.
I am so lucky!
Old Victoria River Road Crossing!
Our team checked isolated pools that had shown cane toad tadpole infestations the previous weekend. Only one pool indicated that there was a new infestation. There was no opportunity to get back to toad bust in this area during the night to see if more adult toads had arrived. It is planned to hit this area over the next two weekends.
- The rock pools observed from the weekend before, one containing only native tadpoles and several others containing toad tadpoles showed significant dead numbers in and around the pools. Early rains that form these pools, if not followed by constant rain, appear to become too hot to sustain any toad or native life. It is the feeling by the team that monitoring rainfall and temperature will assist towards making decisions towards the need to expend energy ‘cleaning’ out these early infestations or letting nature do the job.
- The change from still areas and slow running water over the Old Victoria Crossing to fast flow appears to have mitigated or moved toad populations and the overall numbers of toad activity in this general area. Toad populations further downstream and above the crossing where there are still ‘billabong’ type aquatic systems show active toad populations.
- Road Culverts! North and south of the Victoria River Roadhouse. Although the team ;busted’ significant numbers of toads from the culvert systems it was the information gathered for long term trapping exercises that indicated this exercise was worth while. Particularly in regards to working out an appropriate long term trapping strategy that would work with the already established CALM trapping programme. A total number of toads busted along the highway between the Victoria River Road House over the Saturday night was an incredible total of 43.
Road kill added a further 31 to the total. (The road kill was not added to the Kimberley Toad Busters final total of 274).
- Victoria River Road House.
- Toad Busting from the camp commenced at dusk. Comments from the Victoria River Road House staff and other resident individuals tend to indicate that the Kimberley Toad Busters are actually producing a difference. The toads busted were primarily female and indicate a ‘first wave’ of cane toads, despite the fact that it is now a year since the first cane toads were ‘spotted’ at the Victoria River Road House. The estimation from the Kimberley Cane Toad Busting is that we definitely ‘have a chance’ if we keep ‘busting’ gravid females and male adults in this general area..
- Victoria Highway and CALM TRAPS. Now that the rains have commenced there is no doubt that cane toad activity has increased and the traps are now beginning to catch toads. This sudden change in the number of toad catches in the traps indicates that the CALM Cane Toad Trapping strategy may have been several months too early in its objectives
Oops! Got it wrong!
Over an evening of Toad Busting (two runs down the highway south between the Victoria Road House and the Victoria River Road House) the results suggest that toads are making their way up to the Victoria Highway from the Victoria River via erosion areas. All these erosion areas lead to culvert systems put in place by Main Roads. Toad ‘road kills’ on the highway recognised that the culverts play an important role in determining the movement of toads from the river to the road and other areas. The number of toads found in the CALM traps ( a total of 52) indicate that these traps are gong to play an important role in keeping the cane toad front and the identified cane toad inclusions under control. Our objective is to prevent the toad front from moving and to also ‘wipe’ new generations of cane toads. The combinations of cane toad trapping and the toad busting efforts by Community will ensure that this programme succeeds. Bi-catch is still an issue both the Kimberley Toad Busters and CALM still need to confront.
- Toad splatters (not to be confused with ‘Kills’ endorse the need to put traps near road culverts.
The toad ‘splatters ’ represent those toads that did not manage to allude vehicle activity down the Victoria Highway and barely represent identifiable toad remains. A total of c 70 toad ‘splatters’ were identified and the concentration of these were always located near culverts. This tends to re-inforce the need to place traps near culverts along the highway.
Georgina ! Definitely on a mission!
Buffalo Wadi/Wallow Old Victoria Road Crossing.
Our team tried to visit this area during the Saturday night but were defeated by the presence of two rather large Buffalo. Providence prevailed. Our team hit the area at Midday on the Sunday. In temperatures that had to be in the mid forties and a humidity to suit, four of our team ventured out of the bus to tackle what appeared to be nothing more than a logistical survey. Without Georgina Wilson’s amazing ability to ‘read’ the ground there is no way that we would have spotted the adult cane toads. I personally walked over at least 5 without knowing they were there. Once we got our ‘eyes’ in we pulled 22 very gravid females and 2 males out of the mud. The toads were deeply imbedded in the hoof prints of the Buffalo and had ‘backed’ into the mud. This meant you could only pull them out by grabbing their mouths and head. Annie Fitzgerald summed it up with her statement “thank God these buggers don’t have teeth”.
22 very gravid females and 2 males indicated a very successful bust. It also confirmed that our Kimberley Toad Busters could now quite successfully ‘bust’ cane toads in these environments during the day. Prior to this data base colation our toad busting team had been restricted to ‘busting’ mature toads during the night when they were most active. A collective appraisal of this new field discovery is that we now need to GPS and put in traps in each of the Buffalo Wallows and Wadi’s located between Katherine and Timber Creek.
- Fitzroy Station. The Quad bike team, led by Jeff and partner Cam of Triple J confirmed that the cane front incursions are almost 40 to 45 km further west than we had Predicted. While a concern, we are probably still looking at cane toad incursions that represent toad infestations that have been isolated over the dry season. It has been confirmed by the team that on-going Cane Toad Management (trapping; toad busting; barrier fencing etc ) will ensure that cane toads will not cross into WA. .
Brumby Creek. Out Kimberley Toad Busting Team had been able to confirm that the Brumby Creek system, south of the Fitzroy Station turn-off, is probably the western most incursion of cane toads along the Victoria River Road . This hopefully confirms that our Kimberley Toad Busting group has a definite handle on where the cane toad front incursions will establish themselves for the 2006 dry season.
Kimberley Toad Busters proposed Trapping strategy.
Lee Scott-Virtue and Dean Goodgame: Kimberley Specialists.
This is a draft proposal and must remain fluid and flexible. As our Toad Busters continue to work in the field we are progressively developing a clearer picture of the field dynamics involved with the cane toad movement across the landscape. We are also gaining a clearer understanding and insight into the cane toad’s behavioural patterns. Trapping is clearly a vital component of the management strategy to contain cane toad populations, however without understanding the behavioural dynamics of cane toad activity and movement across the landscape the value and effectiveness of cane toad traps will continue to be debated.
Our Kimberley Toad Busters have a number of objectives in our proposed trapping program.
To establish a trap placement strategy that compliments our weekend physical Toad Busting activities.
- To determine a trapping program that compliments the CALM trapping strategy already in place.
- To identify potential cane toad risk or ‘hot spot’ risk habitat areas and put in place traps for the long term management of these areas.
- To identify a strategic ‘buffer’ zone between the WA/NT border and the cane toad front incursions and to determine a trapping management plan (and other measures) that works in with barrier fencing and current physical toad busting activities. It is the belief of Kimberley Specialists and the Kimberley Toad Busting Group we have formed, that we may seriously have to consider ‘sacrificing’ a biodiversity buffer zone between the WA/NT border and the cane toad front to keep the cane toad out of the Kimberley.
Kimberley Toad Busters to put in place small portable field traps with a lighting system. These will be placed over night in the areas beingtoad busted by the volunteers. This will indicate how efficient the toad busting over the evening may have been as well as monitoring for any toads that may have been missed.
Similar traps will also be placed overnight in cane toad 'hot spots' identified by the KTB such as Buffalo Wallows/Wadi’s, culvert and gulley systems leading away from River and creek systems.
Appropriate small portable field traps with solar driven lighting systems are currently being built by Kununurra Tafe under the direction of Chris Spur. $30,000 worth of materials has been donated by Biodiversity Protection Inc. $5,000 by Triple J and various business and private sponsorship for traps ensure that materials are readily available for the sustainability of the local manufacture of traps. CDEP new innovative involvement in the trap making programme also ensures the sustainability of the project. The SWEK is poised to present a local government trap strategy and this will also enforce and ensure sustainability of the local Community toad trapping strategy.
To place traps in vehicle ‘rest’ areas along the Victoria Highway, Buntine Highway and particularly along the Duncan through to Halls Creek.
For this first stage we require larger traps with solar panels and a control box so they can be left in the field for up to 3 or 6 days. (Recent studies by Biodiversity Protection Inc indicates that one solar panel may be able to ‘power’ up to 3 traps. This is being followed up by Chris Spur at the Kununurra TAFE Centre and Graeme Sawyer, Frogwatch.
To place traps on pastoral properties and Aboriginal Communities not yet being Toad Busted but are well placed in the 'cane toad firing line' and urgently need to be monitored if cane toad incursions do occur during the wet season.
The sustainability of the Kimberley Toad Busters trapping strategy relies on Aboriginal Communities and Pastoral Station Owners willingness to participate and provide on-going assistance in the maintenance/removal/ and disposal of toads caught in the traps. It also relies on land owners and managers to assist and host our volunteer cane toad busting groups who need to ‘toad bust’ to ensure cane toadtraps in place are actually working.
Once a buffer Zone has been recognised (and this may represent the Cane Toad Front Line?) KTB will endeavour to put in place a trapping strategy that also uses the resources of ‘barrier fencing’, Sniffer dogs and toad busting teams. This trapping strategy will also require Pastoral Stations, Aboriginal Communities and Government and Scientific agencies to recognise that we may need to ‘sacrifice’ a Biodiversity line’ to save the greater ‘whole’. That is to prevent the cane toad from crossing over the WA/NT border. At the end of the day we need to implement what ever it takes to prevent the cane toad from crossing into the Kimberley .
Understanding change in the environment. By Tricia Handasyde.
Building a record of the animals that are found where we live is important in helping to understand change - caused by too much fire, weeds or feral animals (including cane toads if they get here).
If you stop seeing a particular animal, maybe it has just died and next year another one will take its place. Or there might still be others out there that you don’t see very often. But if 10 or 20 people scattered around the east Kimberley stop seeing the same animal, it may be that this animal is really in danger of disappearing.
The more we look closely at animals, the better we get at being able to tell the difference between them. It’s like meeting someone who you keep getting mixed up with someone else. After you know them better, it’s hard to believe you used to get them mixed up.
Recording animals you see:
- Write down when and where you see particular animals or tell someone else who can write this down. What sort of country was the animal seen in – river, sandy, rocky, hills, etc. Anything else of interest – was it eating something, did it have babies, etc?
- Get better at knowing the animals you see by talking to people who are familiar with them (maybe showing them photos), writing down the animal’s names, looking up photos in books.
It is also worth telling someone about animals that you think have become scarce or have disappeared already so this can be recorded too.
bust the toad
by lorraine couacaud
Its time for us to pack up and move to another place
we have jumped off the starting blocks and started our race
we are now hopping and moving in no particular order
it wont be long before we make it to your state and border
hopping across the country can be slow and a strain
we are waiting for the wet the rivers to flow and breed again
it will be easier for us to move and make our mark on the map
come on people stop us now and start to set your trap
some of us are lazy and hitch a ride on a road train or truck
some of us jump off and get squashed and caught or stuck
we can also hide in a box of fruit in a truck or a car
and when we get caught we end up in some specimen jar
we are fat ugly with warts and the colour brown
you cant help but to notice us when we are hanging around
and if you spot and see us you will have to let someone know
we will destroy other species and they will not get a chance to grow
even our own neighbour our lovely green tree frog
he will have to hide find a new home in some lonely log
we will not be welcomed at your home at anytime
we will look ugly make a noise and feel like slime
having fun exploring your garden septic waters and drain
or perhaps your toilet you will not invite us back again
and those places where you go camping and fishing to take a rest
we will be there waiting to say hello and be a menace and a pest
so come on now help us set traps and get on the road
please stop us now before its too late bust the ugly toad
If anyone would like to come along on one of our weekend exercises please contact me on 91682576 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Nobody is too young or too old in this fight to stop the cane toad from crossing into Western Australia . If you don’t have a vehicle we can always find a seat on the Triple J Toad Busting Bus.
IF EVERYONE BECAME A TOAD BUSTER.
THE TOADS WOULD BE BUSTED!