The National Park Service is urging visitors to stop licking the Sonoran desert toad because its potent venom can make people sick. Photo courtesy of the Oakland Zoo
Nov. 8 (UPI) -- The National Park Service is warning visitors to stop kissing, and licking, the Sonoran desert toad because the amphibian's potent toxin can make people sick.
The National Park Service warned visitors in a Facebook post last week that the Sonoran desert toad's defensive milky venom, excreted through its skin, is classified as an illegal psychedelic that can produce "late night content no one asked for."
"These toads have prominent parotoid glands that secrete a potent toxin," the post said. "It can make you sick if you handle the frog or get the poison in your mouth."
While the venom can make people sick, it can paralyze or even kill dogs, according to the Oakland Zoo, which says the toxin is meant to kill the toad's predators.
The Sonoran desert toad, also known as the Colorado River Toad, measures close to 7 inches long and is one of the largest toads in North America, according to the National Park Service which says the toad's croak sounds like a "low-pitched toot."
"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. Thank you. Toot!" the National Park Service wrote in its post on Facebook.
The psychedelic toad is in high demand for its toxin which can produce euphoria and hallucinations, according to a New York Times report.
That high demand could put the toads at risk of endangerment or extinction as people remove them from their habitats, according to Robert Villa, the president of the Tucson Herpetological Society.
The Sonoran desert toad is commonly found in southern Colorado, Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and southeastern California, where it is now classified as endangered.
Anyone can legally capture up to 10 Sonoran desert toads with a proper license in Arizona. But, in California, it is illegal to capture the toads to smoke their toxins, according to the Oakland Zoo.
The toad's venom, bufotenin, is considered a Schedule 1 drug and is illegal.