On July 24, 2012, an image of a man holding a giant toad was posted on the Chiricahua Desert Museum Facebook page. An extended caption described a 57-pound toad which had been responsible for the disappearance of small animals in Rodeo, New Mexico.
The photo is fake.
A week after posting the photo, the museum admitted that the photo was in fact a hoax. Despite its admission, the museum’s comment was quickly buried in the lively discussion and many readers continued to question if the photo was real. Three years later, the photo is still seen circulating on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Prior to their admission, we asked a graphic artist to take a look at the photo for an expert opinion. Enlarging the photo revealed unnatural (Photoshopped) edges where the images of the toad and man overlapped. Below is an enlargement of a section of the image:
Originally the museum hadn’t commented on the photo after publishing it, but the sentiment on their Facebook page‘s comments ranged from skeptical to angry. The caption they published with the photo read:
For almost two months now families in and around the border town of Rodeo, NM have been seeing their small dogs and cats go missing. A mountain lion was thought to be the culprit but after the discovery of this giant Sonoran Desert Toad (Bufo alvarius) yesterday outside the Chiricahua Desert Museum the locals are sure that this toad is responsible for the loss of their pets and they are hopping mad. This toad weighed in at 57 pounds, that was after it dispensed about 2 gallons of urine during its capture. The Sonoran Desert toad is the largest native toad to North American but does not typically get any larger than about 1.5 pounds and a length of 7.5 inches so this is most definitely a new world record, probably?
Some readers defended the photo, stating that because the source of the photo was a museum, it should be given credibility.
Our Initial Response
Below is our initial response to the photo, prior to the museum admitting it was a hoax.
The man in the photo hardly seems to be straining as he holds this weighty object. The toad also appears to cast no shadow on the ground at all. The toad seems perfectly content to be held like this, which seems odd. Finally, Sonoran Desert Toads simply don’t get that big. The largest toads in the world may approach 7 pounds, but that’s a far cry from the 57 pounds suggested here. This type of toad can reach 7 or more inches, but if you take a look at this page with a “huge” Sonoran Desert Toad, you can see it’s easily held in a woman’s hands.
Museum Admits Hoax
The museum eventually admitted the image was a hoax. On July 31, 2012 the museum explained in the photo’s caption:
The 57# Toad was an actual Sonoran Toad the was enlarged in Photoshop, it was meant to be a spoof on the GIANT RATTLESNAKE pictures that frequently are passed around as REAL.
We were thrilled with responses from everyone on FACEBOOK, although some were contrary to one another they were all great.
The photo of a man holding a 57-pound toad was a hoax posted by a museum in July 2012. Despite an admission by the museum that the photo was fake, it continues to circulate on social media years later.
Updated May 12, 2015
Originally published August 2012