Officials Seek Spur Cross Ranch Toad Thieves

Sonoran Desert toad | Bighouse2015 (via Creative Commons)

Three people were photographed taking Sonoran Desert toads from a Phoenix-area preserve last month, and officials are asking the public for help identifying the thieves.

As azfamily.com reported, the incident occurred July 19 at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area in Cave Creek, northeast of Phoenix. A trail camera captured the thieves, two men and a woman, putting the toads in plastic bags about two hours after the conservation area had closed for the night.

The toads are not a protected species, which means they can be collected from the wild by anyone with a fishing license, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. However, because the toads were in a conservation area administered by Maricopa County, the thieves violated a county ordinance by removing them without permission, officials told azfamily.com.

It's not clear why the toads were taken, but Sonoran Desert toads, which are among the largest toads in North America, secrete toxins that have hallucinogenic properties. A Banner Health doctor told azfamily.com that the amphibians are often victims of "toad licking," which can be extremely dangerous.

Visit Spur Cross Ranch Recreation Area's Facebook page to see the videos of the toad thieves (be advised that the videos contain profane language). If you recognize anyone in the videos, call the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office at 602-876-1000.

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