A simple Park Service plea: Don’t lick the toads

The Sonoran desert toad secretes a potent—and popular—toxin. Credit: Holger Krisp

The National Park Service took to Facebook with a simple plea designed to help protect the Sonoran desert toad. “Please refrain from licking.”

Also known as the Colorado River toad, the amphibian (Bufo alvarius) secretes a poison that can be deadly, but it can also result in a short-lasting hallucinogenic response.

“Licking the toads is not the way most people go about it,” the New York Times writes. Stroking under its chin releases the toxin, which can be scraped, dried and smoked. The substance’s popularity is growing, with some people paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for the experience.

That has brought a new threat to the toad, which primarily occupies the Sonoran desert between the U.S. and Mexico. The toads are often the target of poaching, over-harvesting and illegal trafficking, the Times reports.

In the face of these threats, the Park Service is asking visitors to hold their tongues.

“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,” it wrote.

Read more from the New York Times.