Shock! Horror! Toads at Timber Creek!
The flooding and increased amount of semi permanent surface water lying around the general Timber Creek and Victoria River Road House areas has produced the perfect opportunity for cane toads to move quickly over the three weeks Kimberley Toad Busters were unable to get into the field. 12 large toads were picked up in Timber Creek. A disturbing result of the increased toad movement was the discovery of a tadpole incursion in a gravel pit 17 kilometer’s west of Timber Creek. (Unbeknown to our toad busting team 5 toads had been picked up in this general area the night before). Georgina Wilson, Bruce Russell and Dean Goodgame undertook the heroic effort of netting the tadpoles in 45 degree heat and high humidity. While it was impossible to remove all the tadpoles there was a sense of quiet achievement felt by the team and just one of the indicators of the diligence and dedication of the Kimberley Toad Busters in ‘leaving no stone unturned’ in the effort to make sure ‘no toads slipped through the human net’.
Poison glands of a 14cm male cane toad.
Unless hit forcibly the glands ooze the poison rather than ‘squirt’ it out.
What does toad activity in Timber Creek mean?
Fortunately the Timber Creek cane toad ‘busts’ indicate we are only looking at ‘frontline incursions’ and not major colonizing fronts. The major male toad colonizing front still appears to be around the Brownie Creek (50 km further east and 60 males in just under an hour) while the actual cane toad ‘front-line is still east and in the general vicinity of the Victoria River and Road House. Large gravid female populations still appear to be focused around the Fitzroy Station Aboriginal Community area (with few males). Our Kimberley Toad Busters will continue to ‘bust’ these area’s, in conjunction with CALM for the next several weeks.
Distinctive ‘non-webbed’ back foot of a cane toad.
White line down central back seems to indicate female?
Cane Toad Busting on the Weekend 25-26 th February. Report:
Four Kimberley Toad Busting teams hit the Northern Territory over the weekend. Thirteen travelled on the Triple J bus and focussed on the area between Brownies and the Victoria River Road House, covering an area of around 45 kilometres. We were joined by Richard Lethbridge, president of SEEKS for the weekend. A number of SEEKS members have joined the Kimberley Toad Busters on their weekend toad busting exercises over the last several months. This involvement by members of a well established and recognised environmental group signifies the commitment of the East Kimberley Community at large to ‘do what we can’ to mitigate the impact of toads on the Kimberley and ‘buy time’ for scientists working on biological solutions.
Toad Buster ‘extraordinaire’
Samson Lamor still smiling after ‘busting’ for most of the night,
Aboriginal volunteer Samson Lomar won the volunteer toad busting award for the weekend. He not only caught the most toads before midnight but was still out there toad busting until the ‘wee’ hours of the morning, and long after many had gone to bed. Other members of our ‘Triple J’ bus team included Maryanne Winten, Joyce Chunnary, Queenie Malgil, Wendy Carter and her two wonderful assistants Montana and Letoya, Dean and I and Ronnie Atkins.
Del Collins euthanising cane toads.
A juvenile being measured!
Area’s Toad Busted!
Toad ‘busting’ for this weekend of the 26 -27 February included the Victoria Highway 20 km east of the Victoria Highway as well as east towards Timber Creek. Cane Toad ‘hotspots’ (creeks/dams/swamps/wetlands etc) were also ‘busted’.
The size of the area covered meant a very late night with most of us not hitting our swags until around 3am . Cane toad fever is hard to let go of when wherever you turn there is yet another cane toad ‘daring’ you to catch it.
Queenie Malgil Montana
A well deserved sleep!
Brownies Dam and Creek system:
Brownies creek and dam continue to show evidence of (and support) a front line male dominated colonising front. 61 very large males were ‘busted’ by the Kimberley Toad Busters in just a little over an hour (CALM team members had also caught a similar number of males during the week). Only 2 very gravid females were found and 2 indeterminate ‘gender’ species too small to sex. Disturbing was the very large number of metamorphs found around the edges of the dam. This indicates an earlier colonising front that our toad busters missed. We estimate we probably disposed of several hundred but a check the next morning confirmed that this is an area our toad busters will have to continue ‘busting’ for metamorphs and tadpole incursions for the next several weeks.
Brownies showed that from metamorph
stage to adult cane toads love to sit in
cow and buffalo pads.
Marianne’s face sais it all!
Victoria Road Busting between Brownies and Lost Creek!
A second sweep after midnight of the Victoria Road between Brownies and Lost Creek busted 38 very large gravid females and only 9 males, suggesting that the females are very much on the move away from the creeks and river areas and appeared to be moving towards the Brownies dam and swamp system. Every female picked up on the road was facing west. (What does this mean?). Very small juvenile toads were also picked up but their size made it difficult to determine the sex.
Cane toad transition from tadpole to Cane toad Eggs.
Victoria River Road House!
Toads ‘busted’ at the Victoria River Road House and boat ramp road were predominately juveniles ranging in size from 5 to 10cm. A total of 231 toads were ‘busted’ over the night. 191 were juveniles and only 40 represented adult cane toads. This disparity in size appears to indicate that the Kimberley Toad Busters and the CALM team are having a positive impact on the adult populations. A question raised at this point was the dominance of juvenile cane toads of much the same generation. This infers that we have not isolated the main breeding colonisation front producing the new generations of cane toads?
Kimberley Toad Busters Aboriginal Educational Component!
Even toad busting we still have time to Fish’! Georgina waiting for that ‘Barra’ To grab the line!
Ethel with an example of one of the ‘main ‘bush tucker’ foods that will disappear when the cane toad arrives!
Both these photographs clearly show what Aboriginal people will lose to the cane toad, but what will also disappear from the Kimberley environment. Is this what we want?
The infamous Del Collins and her side kick Georgina Wilson with the support of Bruce Russell and his son Robert travelling in a second vehicle, visited Aboriginal Communities around Timber Creek for the ‘educational’ component of Kimberley Toad Busters and toad busted the general Fitzroy Community area as well as toad busting the Victoria Highway from Brownies to the Victoria River Road House.
44 gravid females and 14 adult male toads were ‘busted ‘along the Fitzroy Community road. The presence of such a large number of very gravid females is a further indication that the gravid females are on the move to breeding ‘zones’. This team was also responsible for the large number of toads ‘busted’ on the Victoria Highway . Del and her teams energy is ‘killing’!
Timber Creek area!
Chris Spur and his family concentrated on the Timber Creek area and west from Timber Creek to the Gregory Tree Road running north onto the Victoria River. This is yet another aspect of a Kimberley family unit working together to prevent the cane toad from crossing into the Kimberley . Disturbingly Chris, Mimi and family busted 18 toads in the general Timber Creek area and located another major cane toad tadpole and toad incursion 8.4km west of Timber Creek 120 metres south of the Victoria Highway . 10 mature male toads were ‘busted’ in this area by Chris and Mimi.
‘Cancer of the poison gland’? Some of the information our Kimberley Toad Busters are collating.
West of Timber Creek!
Dave Woods and John Cugley concentrated on the area west of Gregory Tree Road through to Sandy Creek and confirmed toad activity predominantly south of the Victoria Highway Dave was able to confirm that toad activity north along the Gregory Tree Road was minimal. However the ‘toad hummer’ (a recording of the male toad call) established that while there is still a presence of toads in this area the main ‘toad calls’ were coming from the gravel pit and wetlands areas located south of the Victoria Highway and east of Sandy Creek.
Thanks to the dedicated field work undertaken by Dave, John, Chris and Mimi the Kimberley Toad Busters now have a better handle on how to put in place a more efficient field and trapping strategy. The good news too is that the cane toad incursions found west of Timber Creek appear to be random and well spread out (and that the cane toads are predominantly male). And that the ‘toads’ found in these areas of wetlands probably relate to the flooding of the Victoria River several weeks back. Unless this area experiences more major rains and flooding the Victoria River will remain predominantly saline and may not facilitate any further new ‘cane toad’ activity west of Timber Creek. If this is the case Kimberley Toad Busters have an opportunity to ‘wipe out’ this new incursion.
Toad Busting over the Labour Day Weekend:
826 toads were busted by 11 volunteer Kimberley Toad Busters over the Labour Day long weekend. This has bought the Kimberley Toad Busting tally to 6,013 toads ‘busted’ since the 7 th September 2004 . It is difficult to estimate how many eggs, tadpoles and metamorphs have been ‘disposed’ of in this time but it is certainly in the tens of thousands. As our methods of collecting eggs and tadpoles improve we should be able to ‘bust’ most water systems more efficiently at this early stage of the cane toad life cycle. We are also perfecting traps that can deal with the metamorph and juvenile stage of the cane toad.
Man made ‘environments’ such as this are ‘heaven’ for the cane toad!
We began the ‘toad-busting’ with an early morning aerial reconnaissance (donated by Craig and Gail Muir of Alligator Airways) over the general area of the Victoria River from the coastal outlet on Legune Station to just east of the Victoria River Road House. Dave Woods, Dean Goodgame, John Cugley and Trevor Detoit, all experienced toad busters were joined by Ian Petheric for the aerial reconnaissance. Thanks to Ian’s in-depth local knowledge of the area being reconnoitred our team was able to maximise the time in the air and collate some very valuable information for future toad busts. Just one component of this information was the identification of ‘potential’ cane toad breeding areas in the general vicinity of ‘toad hot-spots’ currently being toad busted on a regular basis. This was particularly the case around the Victoria River Road House. We had been trying for some time to locate the main ‘breeding’ areas that had been providing a constant flow of ‘new’ generations of metamorphs and juveniles. The areas spotted and mapped from the air proved to be the breeding areas we were looking for.
Subsequently, and in the most appalling humidity and wet and muddy conditions, our team spent most of the weekend ‘busting’ huge populations of large male toads, juveniles and eggs. Georgina Wilson and Dean Goodgame spent much of their time on their knees in mud and horse dung pulling metre after meter of cane toad eggs from the water. Del Collins on the other hand spent a great deal of her time ‘confronting’ the large and very curious stallion that had decided to join the Kimberley Toad Busters in their hunt for cane toads. No-body was sure who was the more ‘confrontational’. Del or the stallion?
Geogina with cane toad eggs!
Timber Creek Toad Busting:
Dave Woods and John Cugley, making use of their ‘hummer’ (male cane toad call) located 5 male toads just west of Timber Creek in Little Horse Creek, and somewhat disturbingly a large gravid female 7 km west of Pear Creek. Too close to our WA border for comfit. Both feel confident that they have picked up all the toads that were in the area over the weekend. The gravel pits located 17 km west of Timber Creek showed no more tadpole activity or the presence of cane toads. This was also the case along the Gregory Tree road. The reduction in the number of toads now being picked up in the general area of Timber Creek supports the conclusion that the toads were the result of the flooding of the Victoria River 6 weeks earlier.
New ‘toad busters’ Hayley McKeen from the SWEK (with trained Kimberley Toad Buster leader and partner ‘Macka’), Danelle Larke and Bianca and Tim Wright from the Kununurra District Hospital joined the fun and action for the weekend.
Cane Toad Front Line?
A great deal of information was gained over the weekend and it has now become quite obvious to our toad busting teams that we are managing to reduce ‘breeding’ population numbers in all the areas being ‘busted’ on a frequent basis. More importantly we are also identifying any ‘new’ cane toad incursion west of the main front as quickly as it is occurring. Identifying these areas during the wet is producing a firm ‘plan of attack’ for the dry and we have no doubts that our Kimberley Toad Busters will be able to get in and wipe out any isolated populations back to the present cane toad front. This is still basically located at the general Victoria River , with the Brownie Creek dam area still the closest cane toad colonising front. Brownies Creek is located approximately 45 km west of the Victoria River Road House.
Is ‘busting’ toads worth it?
Without Kimberley Toad Buster volunteers and the CALM team working on the ground picking up these very gravid females and breeding age males, as well as determining ‘new front-line’ cane toad activity it is hard to comprehend what the Kimberley would be facing this coming dry. The results from the Kimberley Toad Busters volunteer activities also emphasise how critical the volunteer toad busting exercises are in keeping tabs on the cane toad movement as well as providing a more comprehensive understanding of cane toad colonisation behaviour. It has been estimated that between CALM, the Kimberley Toad Busters and the busting efforts by Coolibah Station, Bluey’s Crocodile Farm and the owners of the Victoria River Road House that around 17,000 toads have been ‘busted’ in the last 6 months. If you worked on at least 50% of the toads ‘busted’ as potentially being large gravid females this has knocked out a potential two hundred and fifty five million eggs from the system. Knocking out potential breeding male and female cane toads from the front line on a consistent basis has to slow the movement as well as reduce the numbers advancing towards the Western Australian border. It is providing time for our Kimberley Community to be fully prepared to deal with any cane toad incursions. It is also buying a little more time for our Kimberley biodiversity and for scientists to come up with a biological control method.
Yes, toad busting is worth it and there can never be too many of us out there ‘busting’ toads. IF EVERYONE BECAME A TOAD BUSTER. THE TOADS WOULD BE BUSTED!
Mmm! I don’ think Dean has noticed?
I wonder if anyone has noticed me?
“Mmm this looks easy. This should get me to the Kimberley in no time’.
The growing concern of cane toad hitch hikers hitting Kununurra and the Kimberley is increasingly real. If anyone thinks they have seen a cane toad, or found cane toad tadpoles or metamorphs please contact the Kimberley Toad Busters. Trained members of our team will help you with the identification. If you think you have an adult cane toad or a metamorph PLEASE don’t kill it. Put it in a rubbish bin or something with high straight slippery sides (such as a large rubbish bin) and place some grass/hollow log and a small container of water in the base. If you think you have a cane toad tadpole put a couple in a jar in water (no lid as they also need oxygen from the water). One of our members will come to you if you can’t get to us.
Contact Sarah Brett on 0407691229;
Del Collins ( Sister Del ) on 0417175427;
Ronnie Atkins (Warrangari) 0438550103;
Georgina Wilson (Aboriginal Toad Buster extraordinaire) 0417934429; Or At Bell Springs
Bruce Russell 0418778366;
Dean Goodgame 0417181755.
Chris and Tina (Barra-Barra) on 91 682098
Annie and Anne Marie Wilson (Wyndham) 0438514005
Lee Scott-Virtue 91682576.
Our team will then pass all relevant information onto Conservation and Land Management.
Kimberley Toad Busting Wedding!
Dean and I would like to extend an invitation to all Kimberley Toad Busters to come up to the Victoria River Road House on the Toad Busting weekend of the 18th March to not only toad bust (and obviously this is a priority) but to share with us our commitment to ‘tie the knot’. Nothing special but lots of toadbusting, awful heat and weather AND camping. But guaranteed to be lots of fun. Let me know if you can come so we can make sure we cater enough ‘bush-camp’ food. If you want accommodation please contact the Road House 89750744.
Thanks to Dean Goodgame and Del Collins for the use of their photographs for this Newsletter
Cane Toad Counts:
Total toad count as of the Labour weekend was 6013 for the Kimberley Toad Busters. This does not include the tens of thousands of metamorphs or cane toad tadpoles.
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!
Lee or Dean on 91682576
Or contact Sarah Brett 0407691229