Native to the Sonoran desert, the Sonoran desert toad is known for its distinctive features; most interesting among which, is probably the fact that it is a psychoactive species from which certain bufotoxins can be derived.
The Sonoran desert toad (Bufo alvarius), also known as the Colorado river toad, is one of the largest toads found in North America, measuring nearly 7 inches (18 cm).
Appearance: Sonoran desert toads have a uniform green to greenish-gray complexion and creamy-white underside. At the angle of jaws, you get to see the tubercles or ‘warts’. There are lumps on their hind legs and large parotid glands behind the eyes and tympanum (circular external ear).
Diet: These toads are carnivores that love feeding on a variety of insects. They eat spiders, snails, beetles, grasshoppers, mice, small lizards, and other toads as well. While adult toads usually prefer beetles over other species, they don’t hesitate to hunt other small vertebrates.
Habitat: As it is evident from the name, this toad is common in the Sonoran desert in southwestern United States and Mexico. It thrives in areas of oak-pine woodlands, grasslands, desert scrub, thorn scrub, and various parts of deciduous forests in this region. Additionally, it is also found in semi-aquatic regions, and near large streams, springs, rain pools, and ditches. In summer, these toads stay inside burrows or rodent holes.
Adaptations: These toads are mostly active during the rainy season, i.e., from May to September. In summer, they become nocturnal and come out of their hidings only at night. These toads have a considerably lengthy lifespan at 10 to 20 years. The eggs are laid in pools, and it takes about a week to 10 days for the larvae to metamorphose.
Do Sonoran Desert Toads Make Good Pets?
While there is no dearth of people who want to keep these toads as pets, there is a certain air of mystery coupled with controversies about the species that one needs to consider. Basically, Sonoran desert toads are held in captivity illegally, and their toxic, milky-white secretion is used for the development of drugs. The toads secrete these toxins from their body as a part of their defense mechanism. If the predators try to eat these toads, they are bound to end up with a mouthful of toxins, which can lead to fatal consequences at times.
Reports suggest that some people have seen in it, the potential to develop some drugs and medication using low doses, which is why the possession of these toxic toads is considered illegal in many states of the US. With the exception of a few states, where you can keep these toads without seeking any permission, you have to get proper licenses issued from the authorities to keep these toads as pets. You must contact the forest or fishery officers to inquire about the laws before you decide to keep them as your pets.
The toxins from the Sonoran desert toad are potentially harmful for pets like cats and dogs. If you do keep these toads as pets, you need to ensure that your cats and dogs don’t come near them. In case of humans, the toxic is not harmful on the skin and can be washed away by soap. However, you should ensure that it does not come in contact with the eyes and mouth as that is likely to be very harmful.