RUSSELL Jago stands waist deep in a dam in total silence, assistant by his side and armed with nothing but a hessian sack and quick hands.
Their ears are primed for a low-key generator noise that is unmistakably cane toad.
"I'm the toad catcher," said Mr Jago, who, with his assistant, Matthew Templeton, and a dozen other catchers are the only things that stand between the cane toad and its relentless march south and up the Clarence River.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service has eliminated 60,000 toads over the years and aims to catch about 10,000 more this season.
"I've been the toad catcher for 14 years, contracted by National Parks and Landcare," Mr Jago said.
"I look in culverts, roads, fire trails, private land blocks, wood sheds, in mulch and in drains.
"Toads make a low-key generator-like sound, which is their call to breed, and I know the call well."
Mr Jago can also identify different frogs, birds and mammals when he is stalking toads, which provides valuable information on wildlife populations to NPWS.
"I'm interested in native reptile and amphibian life, especially those endangered by the cane toad," he said.
"Overall, we've had a decline in toad populations.
"About five years ago, we got 1000 on Palmer's Island, 300 on one property.
"This year, on that same property I got four."
The caught toads are put into a fridge for 24 hours, then into a freezer for 48 hours before they are taken to the tip to be thrown in the furnace.
"Don't take the toads out early," he said.
"They will come to, they're tough."
Mr Jago said if their heads are removed, they would make great fertilizer, you just need a market.
"There is no point sending them to Queensland; they have enough already."
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