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Lesson Plan


Activity — Trap a toad

Setting the scene

In 1935 cane toads were introduced to the sugarcane fields of Gordonvale in far north Queensland in an attempt to control, a major pest to the sugar cane industry, the greyback cane beetle. Unfortunately it was soon realised that the cane toads had very little impact on cane beetle numbers. The beetles gathered on the upper parts of the sugarcane plant and were out of reach of the cane toads.

Due to excellent environmental conditions, a wide abundance of food and a lack of predators cane toad numbers rapidly increased and they soon started to spread. Cane toads are found in Queensland, New South Wales, the Northern Territory and have now entered the northern part of Western Australia.

Cane Toads are extremely toxic to animals who see them as a food source such as quolls and goannas. The cane toad releases a deadly toxin from the parotoid glands when the animal is provoked. They can cause extreme irritation to humans if incorrectly handled and are regarded as a major nuisance by the public.

Currently, there is no known way of effectively controlling cane toad numbers other than physically removing them. Scientists are searching for a biological control agent that is specific to the toads. They are also recording the impact cane toads have on native animals to better understand it and to help create better ways of managing its impact and spread.

Recommended reading for teachers

To gain further information on this topic prior to teaching it in the classroom is recommended that you examine sections of the following:


Students research the introduction history, biology and environmental effects of the cane toad and then design a humane trap.

Student outcomes

Students will:


What to do

This activity is ideal for a homework assignment.


Introduce the topic by discussing the ‘setting the scene’ section of the trap a toad activity with your students.  

Step 1

Students should understand the ‘get to know your toad section’ and supporting cane toad fact sheet to become familiar with the cane toad’s biology and habitat requirements.

Step 2

Before students commence the design of their cane toad trap they must understand the need for all animals to be treated humanely (without suffering, injury or distress) regardless of their appearance, annoying traits or loathing by society.

Note: Students may question what will happen to the cane toads if their trap can not kill them. You can say a company, who has the correct equipment for disposing of cane toads, will collect the toads from the trap.

The best way to dispatch a cane toad is to put in it a freezer where it will loose consciousness and eventually die.

Step 3

Students design a humane toad trap that meets the following criteria:

Trap design Student understanding
attracts or lures cane toads students are aware of what attracts a cane toad
doesn’t harm the toad during the process of capture or once captured students understand a cane toad’s physical abilities
can be left in a location for up to three days students understand what a toad needs to stay alive without suffering
can not be damaged by other animals who might try to break the trap to eat the toads students know which native animals mistakenly eat cane toads
stops curious people from touching the cane toads students are aware of the toxic nature of the cane toad
enough space to comfortably contain up to 20 adult toads students research the physical size, shape and appearance of male and female cane toads
allows for the removal of cane toads without harming them students acknowledge that cane toad (or any animal for that matter) should be treated humanely

Step 4

Once the activity has been completed students present their invention and explain how it works to the classroom.

Step 5


Invasive Animals CRC logoInstitute for Applied Ecology logoUniversity of Canberra logoMurray-Darling Basin Authority logoAustralian Government logo
Cane toad