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Toad, Sonoran

Sonoran Toad at the LA Zoo LAIR (Photo Credit: Ian Recchio)

Scientific Name: Incilius alvarius

The poison of the Sonoran toad contains a chemical commonly known as bufotenin, capable of killing a grown dog!

Since the 1970s, the poison of the Sonoran toad has proven to be more than just a lethal defense mechanism; the venom has shown evidence as a hallucinogen when extracted and smoked or licked directly from the toad’s body.

The Psychedelic Toad of the Southwest

The licking of this toad’s skin and the smoking of its extracted poison has been one of the first documented cases of a hallucinogenic agent stemming from the animal kingdom. The defensive toxins of the toad have been seen in Mesoamerica legend to have ritual importance due to its psychoactive nature.

In recent years, the toad’s poison, a substance called 5-MeO-DMT, has been harvested by numerous individuals in the Southwestern United States for hallucinogenic purposes and its possession and/or distribution has been outlawed in such states as California and New Mexico. Numerous other restrictions on the capture and collection of these animals has been instilled in the Arizona, New Mexico, and California state governments, usually regarding rules about removal of the toad from state limits.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the Sonoran toad as of Least Concern due to its large population, tolerance of habitat modification, and wide distribution.

Indigenous to northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States (southern Arizona and parts of California and New Mexico), the Sonoran toad lives in both deserts and semi-arid areas, usually breeding in small pools or streams, however it is also known to inhabit small rodent borrows as well.

The diet of the Sonoran toad is carnivorous, with typical meals consisting of small insects, rodents, reptiles, and sometimes even smaller toads.

The Sonoran toad is one of the largest toads of North America at around seven inches in length. Besides a few white warts located around the angle of the jaw and on the hind legs, these toads have relatively smooth skin. The toad has a cream colored underbelly and a greenish gray back, most likely used to blend into its surrounding environment to evade hunting predators. Even though not many differences can be observed between the sexes, males can be distinguished by thick calluses that form at the inside of the thumbs during the breeding season.

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