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Leave the Toads Alone

Written by ITW

January 2, 2021

Photo by Sean Barefield (@mojave_cerastes)
Bufo Alvarius, “The Colorado River Toad”, is a fascinating amphibian found in Northern Mexico and the Southwest parts of the United States. According to PBS Nature Works, “It is 3-7 inches in length and is the largest native toad in the United States. It is olive green to dark brown in color. It has smooth, shiny skin covered in warts. Its belly is cream-colored, and it has one to two warts on the corners of its mouth and large raised warts on its rear legs. Its call is a low-pitched hoot” (1). Important to note, the Bufo Alvarius name has more recently been updated in scientific journals, and the proper name is now Incilius Alvarius.
Photo by Sean Barefield (@mojave_cerastes)
This unique toad secretes large amounts of the potent, known hallucinogen, 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), which can be dried and smoked for an intense spiritual experience (2). For many years, anthropologists have proposed that early peoples of Mesoamerica engaged with Bufo marinus as a hallucinogenic in sacred ritual. It was through the analysis of early drawings discovered in these regions that anthropologists formed this belief. However, in an article in the worthwhile read, “Journal of Ethnopharmacology”, authors note that B. marinus could not have been the toad as its venom was extremely toxic (3). Through further research, the authors determined the more likely candidate to be Bufo Alvarius. What this means for ethnopharmacology is that Mesoamerica engaged with Bufo Alvarius as a hallucinogenic in sacred ritual many, many years before the modern world came to be. In a recent talk given by Hamilton Morris at a Bufo Alvarius conference, he makes a sound and scientifically backed argument for the exclusive use of synthetic (5-MeO-DMT) in toad driven spirit quests, pointing out that the effects are identical to those from the natural source (4). Many listeners at the conference took well to this idea, while the few “natural” fanatics insisted that the experience associated with the natural venom cannot be replicated in a lab setting.
Photo by Sean Barefield (@mojave_cerastes)
Hamilton Morris also released a reprint of the 1983 classic, Bufo Alvarius, by Al Most, featuring a new preface outlining the history of the true author, Ken Nelson. Ken Nelson was a unique man fascinated with discovery. Whether it be hunting for toads in the desert or searching for unfound tunnels underneath the retired missile silo he owned, Ken Nelson showed to embody the true spirit of a researcher. In this reprint, Hamilton Morris gives step by step directions for how to synthesize the substance yourself (5).
Photo from: https://thecreamshop.bigcartel.com/product/bufo

The harvest of Bufo Alvarius toads for “milking” has caused a quick degradation in the Bufo Alvarius population of the Sonora Desert. Coming out only 2-3 months a year to mate during monsoon season, they are being stripped away by poachers as soon as they emerge from their hiding. Here’s a short description by PBS Nature Works, detailing the short emerging habitats of these toads. Nature Works states, “Just before spring rains hit the desert, Colorado River toads gather at breeding pools and streams. Mating occurs from May to July. The female lays strands of black eggs. There can be as many as 8,000 eggs in a strand. The tadpoles hatch within 2-12 days. After breeding season is over, the Colorado River toad returns to its burrow, where it spends the winter” (6). Considering milking the toad but not taking it? This still causes intense trauma and PTSD to the toads, making them confused and unable to repropagate.

Photo from: https://thecreamshop.bigcartel.com/product/bufo

In a recent conversation we started in a forum online, we had numerous individuals speak to the first hand trauma they had witnessed the toads undergo after milking. One individual who has personally milked the Bufo Alvarius toad stated,

“I possessed a Bufo Alvarius toad around 2001, and the toad getting PTSD is a very real thing. I only milked it a couple times, and shortly after he got depressed, stopped eating all together, and later died. At the time, I thought I was taking good care of him and didn’t think I was doing harm. However, being ill informed is a bad excuse. I’ve never felt right about the toad after his passing , I was a young fool operating on desire and ego. Rest In Peace Thor, sorry I was stupid”.

As the discovery of ethnopharmacological plants expands, we learn of more plants that contain DMT, which could be a less harmful alternative than milking the Bufo Alvarius toad. One plant in particular is Phalaris Arundinacea, also known as Reed Canary Grass.

According to independent research site, Erowid.com, “Phalaris aquatica, arundinacea, and canariensis are species of waist-high, blue-green, perennial grasses which contain DMT” (7).

If you are interested in reading more about the Sonoran Desert toad, be sure to checkout Hamilton Morris’s recent Vice episode, “Synthetic Toad Venom Machine: Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia New Season”, as well as James Orc’s novel, Tryptamine Palace: 5-MeO-DMT and the Sonoran Desert Toad, which examines Bufo Alvarius toad venom and the entheogenic use of 5-MeO-DMT from toads.

If you are interested in the ways that you can support the protection of this species habitat, please check out the Tucson Herpetological Society, a group actively working to preserve this unique species.


This article was written by Drew Collins, founder of InoculateTheWest.

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