Attack of the killer toads

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"Huge poisonous monster" -- it's Australian for "toad." Coming to a Downunder metro area near you: poison-skinned toads that weigh nearly two pounds and are as big as a small dog, like the one pictured here (nicknamed "Toadzilla"). Introduced from Hawaii in the 1930s as part of a failed effort to eradicate destructive cane beetles in Queensland, the toads have adapted to their new home with surprising aplomb, spreading themselves across the land with amazing speed. Environmental group FrogWatch, which organizes toad hunts in an (admittedly hopeless) effort to make a dent in the cane toad's now 200 million-strong population, estimates that before long they'll be common on both coasts and in most Australian cities, where they thrive like rats in New York City.

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All that wouldn't be so big a deal if the cane toad weren't such a tough mother. Unfortunately, however, it has a taste for all manner of indigenous species unique to Australia, and its hardy disposition and toxic skin make it notoriously difficult to kill. The poisonous beasties are even becoming notorious killers of crocodiles who unwisely try and make snacks of them. So what's to be done? Some Northern Territory police are advising residents to attack the toads with golf clubs on sight, though most officials aren't sure what to do. Forget aliens from outer space destroying all life on earth: the damage these alien toads have done (and could still do) to Australia's flora and fauna proves that we can annihilate ourselves just fine, thanks.

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March 28, 2007 - 5:00am
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