Get Out There

Stop Licking Toads, Says National Park Service

We have written odd headlines before. But we pride ourselves on never writing clickbait. We write blogs that deliver interesting stories that match the description. Our promise to our customers is that we don’t bait and switch with our product or blog! So, while our headline seems outrageous, it’s true.

The National Park Service (NPS) has asked visitors to please stop licking the Sonoran Desert toad. Licking it provides a psychedelic effect because it secretes a potent toxin.

The toad, also called the Colorado River toad, is one of the largest toad species in North America at seven inches. It makes a low-pitched noise that sounds like a ferry whistle. The toxin is a defense mechanism and can kill an adult dog if swallowed. The dried toxin can be turned into crystals and smoked in a pipe.

The NPS wrote a message on Facebook about the animal. “It can make you sick if you handle the frog or get the poison in your mouth. 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.”

The Facebook post didn’t give a reason for the warning. It’s unclear if people have been bothering the toad recently. Or if the NPS put it out as a preemptive warning. But it seems odd to send the message if people aren’t already doing it.

HGTV’s Christina Hall claimed that smoking the toad’s toxin cured her anxiety. However, the toxin is extremely potent and can make a person ill just from touching the toad, let alone licking it.

Psychedelics expert Dr. Mike Dow said that the toxin may reduce anxiety and depression. However, he also said it can be dangerous, and there have been “reports of emergency room admissions and a death associated with the abuse of [the toxin].”

In Arizona, people can get a license to capture up to 10 of the toads. But possession of the toxin is illegal in California.

Jeff Alvarez, founder of the Wildlife Project, an environmental research and consulting company based in Sacramento, said they have had problems with people licking a different breed, the Western toad, hoping to get the psychedelic effect. “Our little toad has been relentlessly collected, licked and hopefully returned,” Mr. Alvarez said.

And, reflecting on the fact that the Western toad has a Novocaine-like effect on people, he believed people were probably numb after their lick. There would be no positive outcome, “much to the dissatisfaction of the toad, and the licker.”

While all of this is sort of funny, it is important to note that this may be an actual problem. We feel bad for the little toad and worry about people’s safety. When you head out into the park, it’s essential to respect the land and the animals that live there. We’ve shared plenty of stories of people behaving poorly in the parks before, but none have been quite this odd.

We always encourage our customers to get outside; our national parks are a treasure. You can see majestic beauty right here in our country. Most of them are free, and they are a pleasure to visit. But, when you go, for goodness sake, don’t put any of the wildlife in your mouth!

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