A CANE toad handed in at the Australian Reptile Park was seeking to breed, keepers say, offering a warning of the risks the species could pose in the Hunter and beyond.
The adult male was handed in after a family, who wish to stay anonymous, discovered the amphibian sitting by a dam.
Nicknamed Toad Runner, the creature had been croaking in a sign he was seeking a mate to breed. Female cane toads can lay between 8000 and 25,000 eggs.
The Australian Reptile Park said conditions in recent weeks had also led to snakes and water dragons emerging from hibernation earlier than normal amid warm weather.
The traditional cold has acted as a barrier to the cane toad's southern advance.
The introduced species has no natural predators in the Australian ecosystem due to a venom it can excrete that kills creatures that attempt to harm or eat them.
"As interesting as a species such as the cane toad is, the last thing we want is to see them anywhere near these areas," Australian Reptile Park general manager Tim Faulker said.
As interesting as a species such as the cane toad is, the last thing we want is to see them anywhere near these areas.Tim Faulkner
"It's extremely alarming to see one here, and we can only hope it was a one-off incident and they haven't been breeding."
Mr Faulkner said the damage the toads could do if they proliferate in NSW was substantial.
"We have to keep in context that northern Australia is homogenous, whereas eastern Australia has greater diversity of species with latitudinal change," he said.
"If they can adapt to the colder climates, many of our unique species are in serious peril."
The toad will remain in captivity at the reptile park for educational purposes. Mr Faulkner said anyone who spots a cane toad should report it to the Office of Environment and Heritage and, if possible, attempt to catch it safely.
The capture of Toad Runner follows a spate of sightings in the Hunter already this year that has the region on alert.
In March, the Newcastle Herald reported a sighting in Swansea that the NSW Department of Primary Industries confirmed was a cane toad.
The same week another toad was spotted at Eleebana, following two sightings in Metford in January and another in Medowie.