NPS' Latest Warning Is a 'Toad-Ally Terrifying' One

Agency issues directive to visitors to not lick toxic Sonoran desert toads in the parks
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 7, 2022 8:58 AM CST
National Park Service: Stop Licking Toads to Get High
A Sonoran desert toad, trying to avoid a licking.   (Getty Images/makasana)

It's the warning from the National Park Service we didn't know we needed: Stop licking the toads. It's one type of toad in particular—the Sonoran desert toad (also known as the Colorado river toad), which NPR describes as a creature that's about 7 inches long and "carries a weak, low-pitched ribbit sound." Innocuous as it may sound, alarms are ringing about the amphibian, because it happens to secrete 5-MeO-DMT, a powerful hallucinogenic toxin, and park visitors are apparently taking advantage of this free drug offered up by Mother Nature.

The psychedelic, also known as bufotenin, can produce "a warm sensation, euphoria, and strong auditory hallucinations" after being smoked, per California's Oakland Zoo, which adds that the toad's poison can also "paralyze or kill dogs and other predators" (the drug is illegal to possess in California, the zoo notes). The Drug Enforcement Administration, meanwhile, has deemed it a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it can't be used for medical purposes and has high potential to be abused. Still that hasn't stopped its appeal: NPR notes that even well-known personalities such as Mike Tyson and Hunter Biden have spoken or written about using the toxin, which emits from the toad's parotid glands behind its eyes, as a therapeutic.

At any rate, the NPS isn't on board and is now directing visitors to its parks not to set their tongues to the toads, which CNN notes are found across the American Southwest. "It can make you sick if you handle the frog or get the poison in your mouth," the agency said in an Oct. 31 Facebook post, calling the prospect "toad-ally terrifying." Its fairly obvious admonition: "As we say with most things you come across in a national park, whether it be a banana slug, unfamiliar mushroom, or a large toad with glowing eyes in the dead of night, please refrain from licking." (Read more strange stuff stories.)

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