Why did the Western toadlets cross the road?
To get to their hibernating grounds, of course.
Toad Fest is a free, fun, family event held every year at the Summit Lake Provincial Park, to create awareness of the Western Toad species that lives in our area.
This year’s event opening was attended by South Okanagan-West Kootenay Member of Parliament Richard Cannings and his wife Margaret. The MP was on site to personally lend a hand to the toads crossing the road into the forest behind the highway.
According to the Fish &Wildlife Compensation Program’s website, “this year the breeding occurred more than a month later,” due to a shift in weather, so the event was held in August, rather than in July.
Nonetheless, the place was hopping with children enthusiastically catching toadlets and placing them in buckets, to be counted by officials and released on the other side of the highway, under the strict supervision of guides and traffic controllers. Some families had come down specifically for this event, others were caught unawares that this event would take place next to their camping ground, but all, big and small, were happy to help the toadlets move along.
There are two types of Western Toads, the boreal toad that lives in western British Columbia and parts of the United States, and the California toad, covering that state and parts of Nevada.
That is why conservation efforts have been made to ensure these toad populations are preserved.
“Only one per cent of the total number of eggs laid make it to adulthood,” one of the program guides said. “That’s what happens with this type of exploding breeding,” she added, pointing to the huge number of eggs each mature female lays. “Each one lays up to 17,000 eggs in strings.”
One of the attendees said that upon driving to New Denver on July 25 she had to drive over toadlets strewn across the highways, and said, “I felt so bad.”
The guide emphasized that Toad Fest’s main goal is to raise awareness about the species and its difficulties. The number of toadlets carried across the highway does not greatly impact the total number of toads that remain in existence across the entire population.
“We would love it if people could slow down and drive carefully, especially on hot, wet nights during the summer, because that’s when the mature females cross the road to lay their eggs,” said the guide. “It’s terrible, some mornings we find several of them flattened on the highway. Especially when each carries that many eggs, that does have an impact.”
The biggest foe for the toad-mothers are large trucks that travel mostly at night, so the Western Toad stewardship program is hoping to have some windows of time free of large truck traffic, such that the mothers might safely get to the other side with all their eggs intact.
There were a number of interactive displays and extremely knowledgeable and passionate guides from various wildlife programs to provide information and hands-on training to everyone wanting more, so like in past years, this event was very well attended and received.
As for how the toadlets crossed the road. Some of them do get carried across in buckets but the vast majority of them go through one of the three specially designed tunnels, into which they are guided by specially designed fencing.