Cane toad find in Western Australia's south-west likely to be hitchhiker

Cane toad find in Western Australia's south-west likely to be hitchhiker

A local found the toad this week in the Preston River running through Donnybrook, a small town 200 kilometres south of Perth.

Cameron Hugh said he was walking his dogs through parkland when he noticed the dead amphibian.

"Straight away I knew it wasn't a native species, just due to the size," the former fisheries biologist said

"I sent a few photos to colleagues of mine based in Queensland, who have a lot more exposure to cane toads, and they confirmed it was a cane toad."

He then contacted WA's Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), as he "just didn't want to be right".

Corinne Everett, DBCA's invasive species coordinator, confirmed it was a cane toad on Thursday afternoon.

She said it was not unusual to find the pest in southern WA, as travellers unwittingly brought them into the area on caravans or in luggage.

"Every time we get a hitchhiker down here, it's critical that we ensure that we do follow up work, to ensure that it is the only one that's managed to hitch a ride, we certainly do not want any satellite populations establishing ahead of the front line," Ms Everett said.

Slow march south?

Ms Everett said there was no evidence "whatsoever" to suggest that there was an established population of cane toads near Donnybrook.

But experts from the state's north said while they were not surprised, they were concerned.

"There have been dozens, literally dozens and dozens of signs," said Lee Scott-Virtue, co-founder of the Kimberley Toad Busters group.

Ms Virtue said she had seen the amphibian evolve over the past 16 years.

"Toads are now moving faster, they're adjusting to quite harsh desert conditions, they're adjusting to saline conditions, they're learning to just wait until they get a big rain to surge forward again," she said.

"If this evolution continues to move the way it is, toads will have adjusted to almost any condition that Australia has."

Earlier this month, a cane toad was discovered in Parramatta, western Sydney.

It was the second toad to be found in the area in less than six weeks.

'Un-pested' pest

Since February last year, cane toads have not been a declared pest north of the Tropic of Capricorn.

The State Government reclassified the amphibian, not because their invasion had been stopped, but because it cannot be stopped.

"I would have to say it really means that our WA Government have pretty much given up on the toad," Ms Scott-Virtue said.

But the DBCA said it had not given up.

Ms Everett is urging travellers from Australia's north to take extra care not to spread the invasive pest further south.

"Please check your load before departing any area that has cane toads in it," she said.