Colorado River toad
|Colorado River toad|
Girard in Baird, 1859
The Colorado River toad, Bufo alvarius, also known as the Sonoran Desert toad, is a psychoactive toad found in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. Its skin and venom contain 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin.
The Colorado River toad can grow to about 7.5 inches (190 mm) long and is the largest toad in the United States apart from the non-native cane toad (Bufo marinus). It has a smooth, leathery skin and is olive green or mottled brown in color. Just behind the large golden eye with horizontal pupil is a bulging kidney-shaped parotoid gland. Below this is a large circular pale green area which is the tympanum or ear drum. By the corner of the mouth there is a white wart and there are white glands on the legs. All these glands produce toxic secretions. Dogs that have attacked toads have been paralyzed or even killed. Raccoons have learned to pull a toad away from a pond by the back leg, turn it on its back and start feeding on its belly, a strategy that keeps the raccoon well away from the poison glands.
Distribution and habitat
The Colorado River toad is found in the lower Colorado River and the Gila River catchment areas, in southeastern California, New Mexico, Mexico and much of Southern Arizona. It lives in both desert and semi-arid areas throughout its range. It is semi-aquatic and is often found in streams, near springs, in canals and drainage ditches and under water troughs. It often makes its home in rodent burrows and is nocturnal. It has a loud, piercing call.
The toads generally breed in small rain pools after the summer showers start; it spends approximately one month as a yellowish-brown tadpole before moving onto the land.
Poison and U.S. law
The toad's primary defense system are glands that produce a poison that may be potent enough to kill a grown dog. These parotoid glands also produce the 5-MeO-DMT  and bufotenin for which the toad is known; both of these chemicals belong to the family of hallucinogenic tryptamines. These substances, present in the skin and venom of the toad, produce psychoactive effects when smoked.
The toads received national attention after a story was published in the New York Times Magazine in 1994 about a California teacher who became the first person to be arrested for possessing the venom of the toads. The substance concerned, bufotenin, had been outlawed in California in 1970.
In November 2007, a man in Kansas City was discovered with a B. alvarius toad in his possession, and charged with possession of a controlled substance after they determined he intended to use its secretions to get high. In Arizona one may legally bag up to ten toads with a fishing license but it could constitute a criminal violation if it can be shown that one is in possession of this toad with the intent to milk and smoke its venom.
It should also be noted that none of the states in which B. alvarius is (or was) indigenous - California, Arizona, and New Mexico - legally allow a person to remove the toad from the state. For example, the Arizona Department of Game and Fish is clear about the law in Arizona: "An individual shall not... export any live wildlife from the state; 3. Transport, possess, offer for sale, sell, sell as live bait, trade, give away, purchase, rent, lease, display, exhibit, propagate... within the state..."
In California, B. alvarius has been designated as "endangered" and possession of this toad is illegal. "It is unlawful to capture, collect, intentionally kill or injure, possess, purchase, propagate, sell, transport, import or export any native reptile or amphibian, or part thereof..."
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|Wikispecies has information related to: Incilius alvarius|
- AmphibiaWeb: Biology and Conservation Information
- NatureServe: Conservation Data
- CaliforniaHerps.com: Documenting California's indigenous reptiles and amphibians
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
- Sonoran Desert Toad - Natural History site
- Toad-smoking gains on toad-licking among drug users- Wall Street Journal
- Secretions From Colorado Toad Contain Powerful Psychedelic Compound- NSDN
- Erowid Psychoactive Toad Vault
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