Toad crossing warning signs have gone up on a Langley residential street.
The bright yellow signs on 20 Avenue between 196 and 200 Streets are along the annual migration route of tiny toadlets which travel en masse from two nearby former gravel pits that house a small lagoon. The pond is a breeding site for the Western toad, a vulnerable “blue-listed” species of amphibian.
It is the only confirmed Western toad breeding site in the Campbell River watershed, according to the A Rocha environmental stewardship group, which describes itself online as “an international Christian organization which, inspired by God’s love, engages in scientific research, environmental education, community-based conservation projects and sustainable agriculture.”
On Saturday night (July 29), a group of A Rocha volunteers and biologists was counting toadlets every 50 metres along the road and found only three live toadlets that had made it to the other side.
The remains of 60 dead toadlets were found on the road.
“I think the majority of the population still hasn’t attempted to cross,” said Christy Juteau, the national conservation science director at A Rocha.
Juteau said the continuing hot weather is the cause, and said residents can expect a much bigger migration once temperatures cool, especially if rains.
The toad counts will continue every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evening until the end of the annual migration.
Anyone interested in taking part should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The toad count is part of a research project to assess the impact of the road on the toadlets and to make a case for road underpasses, something other municipalities like Chilliwack have done.
A Rocha has improvised an underpass by setting up drift fencing to guide the toadlets into a culvert beneath the road, but a proper underpass would be better than that improvised fix, Juteau said.
“Maybe even multiple (underpasses),” she said.
This year, A Rocha representatives lobbied the Township of Langley to close the road for two weeks during the migration season to help stop the carnage that occurs when cars run over the dime-size creatures.
Township staff investigated and said that section of 20th Avenue is a collector road, and traffic would have to be redirected to 16 Avenue and 196 Street, both high-accident areas.
Signage to warn motorists about the toad migration was suggested instead.
During the five years A Rocha has been monitoring the migration, the numbers have ranged from 30 toads in 2015 to 96,000 in 2017.
The year-to-year variation is the result of the three-to-five year breeding cycle of the females.