Each year tens of thousands of western toadlets, each no bigger than a dime, get squashed as they attempt their first migration from the shoreline of Summit Lake to upland habitat across Highway 6, south of Nakusp. On August 22 and 25, the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP), together with B.C. Parks and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOT), is inviting the public to learn more about western toads, and help some toadlets cross the highway.
“We did this for the first time last year and the community interest was huge,” said program manager Patrice Rother for the FWCP, a partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of B.C. and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. “As a result we are having four separate sessions this year, providing both a better educational experience for the public, and to help more toadlets. Last year we moved approximately 20,000 toadlets across the road.”
The toad events run from 3 – 4:30 p.m. and again from 5.30 – 7 p.m. each day on Monday, August 22, and Thursday, August 25. The public is requested to arrive at the start of one of these four sessions to receive a short orientation from a biologist. The events are free and containers for carrying the toadlets across the road will be provided. Parking is limited and carpooling is encouraged.
Traffic control will be in place during the event and drivers can expect very minor delays. “The traffic on this road moves extremely fast and we do not want anyone moving the toadlets outside of these organized events. Safety of the public is our main concern,” added Rother.
“We know that Summit Lake is one of the key breeding areas for western toads in the Kootenay region, if not the province,” said Dave Heagy, Senior Park Ranger for BC Parks in the Arrow area. “Therefore we are extremely pleased that we can invite the public to both help the toads and help celebrate our 100-year centennial. This idea of bringing the “kidlets” to help the toadlets provides a great opportunity for the family to both learn about, and help, nature!”
Western toads are listed federally as a species of concern and are blue listed in the Province. Once widespread throughout North America, in recent decades their distribution has diminished considerably especially in the United States and south coast B.C. where local extinctions have been observed. Habitat loss and road mortality are thought to be among the leading causes for the decline.
Adult western toads descend from upland habitat in the spring, laying their eggs on the shoreline of Summit Lake. The juvenile toads start emerging from the lake around mid-August and make their way back to upland areas where they forage until they reach adulthood, returning then to Summit Lake to breed, completing the migration circle. The total annual toadlet migration is estimated to be in the millions. The migration path crosses Highway 6 and, depending on when the migration occurs, its location along Highway 6, and varying traffic volumes, many toadlets may risk encountering motor vehicles.
In response to this situation, MOT has undertaken various projects over the years to reduce toad mortality. MOT has designed and installed directional fencing and culverts (“toad tunnels”) to safely guide the toads underneath Highway 6. MOT continues to work closely with its partners to develop and support sustainable, long-term measures to protect the migrating toads and toadlets.
While camping spaces at Summit Lake Provincial Park cannot be reserved the Park Facility Operator indicates that there is a good chance of spots being available at that time of the season. To learn more about B.C. Parks, visit www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks. The Ministry of Environment is also helping to support these toad events. For more information call the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program at 250-352-6874 or visit fwcp.ca.