With trail cameras set up in each of our national parks, it’s not surprising that the National Park Service catches wildlife wandering through the night, but no one expected a spooky “hypnotoad” to pop up on camera.
Okay, it’s actually a Bufo alvarius, otherwise known as Sonoran desert toad or Colorado river toad. Just under seven inches, this species is one of the largest in North America, according to the National Park Service. Found in desert and semi-arid environments, the wide-eyed amphibian is nocturnal and spends the day buried underground to escape the midday heat, particularly during the summer. At night, it hunts for large insects like beetles and grasshoppers or even small animals like mice and small lizards. And sometimes, it poses for a trail cam to show just how strange these creatures really are.
“All glory to the hypnotoad,” the National Park Service shared along with the spooky photo. “Will it hypnotize you with its large oscillating multicolored eyes? That’s just silly….”
As it turns out, May through July is actually the Sonoran desert toad’s mating season. Naturally, this is when the toads are most active. Hence the appearance on camera. Right now, females will be producing upwards of 8,000 in a strand. No more than two weeks later, tadpoles will begin to hatch.
Another interesting fact about the not-so-spooky hypnotoad that the National Park Service shared had to do with its signature call.
“What’s that sound? Its call is described as, ‘a weak, low-pitched toot, lasting less than a second.’ Pardon me,” the Service joked.
So, if you’re camping in California’s Sonoran Desert, you can absolutely blame it on the toad.
National Park Service Reminds Visitors Not to Touch (or Lick) Any Spooky Hypnotoads
There’s one more unique characteristic about the Colorado river toad, and it’s one that has given some dangerously curious campers a trip to the hospital. These amphibians are one of the few species that emit a poisonous toxin when threatened. Some believe that this poison can generate a high if ingested, but the National Park Service warns that it’s not worth the risk.
“No touching! These toads have prominent parotoid glands that secrete a potent toxin,” the National Park Service said. “It can make you sick if you handle the frog or get the poison in your mouth. As we say with most things you come across in a park, whether it be a banana slug, unfamiliar mushroom, or a large toad with glowing eyes, no licking.”
These hypnotoads may be mesmerizing, but the safest way to admire these creatures is from afar or from behind the lens of a trail camera.
But maybe don’t look directly in their eyes.