February 2017

Mystery scats

We have found three of these large scats in our enclosed pergola near our bird cage in the past three days. We have searched everywhere and cannot find the animal that is leaving them.

Answer

Cane toad scat

Your mystery animal is a Cane Toad. We have examined the scats you sent and they contained the remains of many species of ground dwelling beetles, sunflower seeds and strands of vegetation. These voracious amphibians can consume large numbers of invertebrates in a short period of time and often consume a lot of by-catch with their very sticky tongues – like the seeds and plant strands around the edges of the bird cage.

Cane Toads are unique amongst amphibians for eating food that does not move. They have been recorded to eat dog food, rice, and vegetable scraps. They also eat distasteful insects like the Ground Beetles (carabids) and Darkling Beetles (Tenebrionids) in the scats you observed and are well known predators of Honeybees despite being stung internally and externally.

Beekeepers have learned to position their hives well above the ground to prevent Cane Toads from eating their bees as they enter and leave the hive. However, if the elevated site is not steep, smooth and vertical Cane Toads will find a way to enjoy a favourite feast as they have in this extraordinary video clip taken by Kay Brooks of a feral bee hive in her terracotta garden sculpture.

 

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