As the days are getting longer and the sun is getting warmer in the Northern Hemisphere, a young male toad’s thoughts turn to love – it’s mating time for amphibians. Unfortunately this springtime ritual is often fraught with danger for frogs and toads. As we were looking for stories for this week’s post, we noticed a lot of stories about how people in Britain and the U.S. are helping toads make this important but dangerous journey. Here are a few:
Blades of glass rustle as hundreds — if not thousands — of toads spring forth from hibernation, each one a bloated, wart-ridden, writhing mass of arms of legs. Then, wide-eyed and kamikaze-like, they fall from the high kerb [curb] before making a desperate dash across the road, determined to reach their hereditary breeding ground. (As reported by in the Henley Standard, Henley-on-Thames, England)
Unfortunately the toads in Henley must contend with a human-created challenge — rush-hour. Local toad patrols, however, are helping the toads cross the road. This year they’ve saved 7,500 toads from road death. The toad patrols can’t stop traffic, but motorists slow down when they see their toad crossing signs and their high-visibility jackets.
Volunteers spent every night of the past month helping toads by carrying them in buckets. The Toad Patrol happens every year and saves about 80 per cent of the migrating population of toads.
The BBC reports that in Northhampshire, England, hundreds of toads make a yearly one-mile journey from a woodland across a number of roads to an area that is now a housing development in the village of St. Crispins, to the south of Northampton.
Many toads are squashed by cars and dozens more fall into drains as they try to get back to where they were born. But those that do make it alive will find that the pond has been replaced by buildings. Donna Robins, a toad patroller, was quoted in the article as saying: “My house is on the woodland where they used to live, I feel responsible. I see them getting killed every night on the road.”
In Edinburgh, Scotland, the Historic Scotland Rangers are helping out with the toad annual ‘Watch Out, Toads About,‘ which helps toads migrate. Early every morning Rangers carry out patrols to check the nooks, crannies, and drains in Holyrood Park to make sure each toad gets to its destination safely.
In winter the toads live around Arthur’s Seat [the beautiful small mountain right outside the city] and Dunsapie Loch. In order to get to where they spawn, they must cross a public road with high curbs. When the toads are tired and hungry they can become disoriented and may be unable to make that last leap to safety. Volunteers are needed to help the roads cross the road safely.
The environmental group coordinates volunteer shifts to aid the toads crossing roads. There’s lots of information about volunteering on their site. After the toads breed, the toadlets, about the size of a fingernail, make their move from May 15 to June 30 and hop back to the woods, so volunteers can pitch in later, too.
Recently, according to the Provincetown (MA) Journal, the Cape Cod National Seashore issue an announcement that beginning this spring and continuing through October, certain local roads will be closed at times, particularly on rainy nights, to protect the spadefoot toad, which is listed by the state as a threatened species.
These unusual toads, one of 12 species of amphibians found within the Seashore, use shallow, temporary ponds for breeding, and the surrounding uplands to feed. They migrate to and from these ponds on rainy nights, especially when the water table is high and temperatures are above 48 degrees.
The toads must cross paved roads, and during such crossings many of these well-camouflaged creatures are unfortunately killed by moving vehicles. Thus there is a need for carefully timed, strategic, temporary detours.
The Province Lands area of Cape Cod is one of the last strongholds for the eastern spadefoot toad in Massachusetts, and the public’s cooperation — and forbearance — is urged in the effort to ensure their survival.
As reported in the article [and mentioned as a difficult issue in some of the other articles cite above], sometimes the public isn’t very enthusiastic about the measures to help amphibians:
A related challenge to protecting these elusive creatures is raising the public’s consciousness about their importance environmentally. By their very nature, spadefoot toads do not attract the throngs of admirers that, say, whales do. Because of their size, habits and habitat, the toads are hard to find and quantify, and are challenging to study. Further, by most standards, they are not very glamorous — except perhaps to herpetologists.
While their tiny, almost invisible close “cousins” the spring peepers can claim status for their joyful, lilting songs that herald the arrival of spring on the Cape, the pained dyspeptic croaking of a spadefoot induces no similar elation. However, in the larger environmental scheme of things they are important marvels of adaptation….
The public can listen in on recordings of frog and toad calls, as well as discussions on amphibian ecology, via links to podcasts and videos on the Seashore’s website. At Frog are Green, we’d like to wish these toads “safe travels” and applaud all the Toad Patrols in the US and the UK who are helping them along on their journeys.