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The Dangers of the Sonoran Desert Toad

Climate change has shifted the patterns of hibernating Bufo alvarius, commonly called the Sonoran Desert Toad. Traditionally, these toads are readily seen during the Southwestern United States and Mexican monsoon season, which occurs from late July to mid-September. This toad usually hibernates underground during dry winter months. However, climate change has made it so winters are progressively warmer and wetter. This produces frequent winter rain totals surpassing that of the monsoon season. Because of this change in climate conditions, Bufo alvarius is emerging from hibernation much earlier, consequently increasing its mating season. While this might resonate as positive news, it is an overall negative effect of global warming.

Bufo alvarius has a broad diet. It consumes insects that have a positive effect on ecological stability, like honeybees, hover-flies, centipedes, beetles, ladybugs, and the praying mantis. The warmer weather cycles also increase the number of crickets, which grow quite large throughout the Sonora Desert region and attract the toads in droves. The Sonoran Desert Toad is not an endangered animal, principally thanks to its defense mechanism. This toad releases high levels of the chemical compound 5-MeO-DMT (C13H18N2O), which is a powerful psychedelic. When an animal sniffs, licks, or attempts to bite this toad it releases a concentrated level of this chemical, sufficient to induce death. When predators are exposed to the toxic compound, most retreat. However, even minimum exposure can induce unpredictable behavior from hallucinations, and present a health hazard.

The animals at greatest risk of death are members of the canine genus. Canines typically attempt to eat the toad, irrespective the cost. An ingested toad continues to release the compound, which can induce deadly seizures, cardiac failure, and brain damage. Next to canines, those most at risk for death are children in their curiosity phase of development, typically during toddler years. During this time-frame, children touch random items and put nearly everything in their mouths. However, the lack of fur on humans allows 5-MeO-DMT to absorb rapidly through the skin, mouth, and eyes.

Households that have an outdoor, uncovered pool have an increased risk for exposure to this toad. While the Sonoran Desert Toad is primarily nocturnal, it is readily seen throughout the day around, or in, watering holes, like pools for mating. Further, those who favor using river rock landscaping should be mindful that toads blend into that environment, making them difficult to spot.

Preventative Measures

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