Toads cause traffic jam on British Columbia highway

Monday, September 3, 2007

Beware: A toad on a highway!
Image: TromasBronot.

A million toads caused a traffic jam on Inland Island Highway, between Campbell River and Courtney, British Columbia on Saturday.

Several years ago, after another toad incident, a 45-centimetre plastic fence was built east of the highway by the Ministry of Transportation, where the toads come from, to guide them safely under the highway into the Millar Creek area, a forestry area on the west side. The west side is higher and that's where the tadpoles hibernate until winter. After that, they mature and go back to their old location to breed.

According to the Canadian Press, the recent young toads also escaped from the local wetlands into the highway instead of using the fence that guides them. An interesting fact is that when the toads come back in the winter they do not use the highway, they cross at streams and rivers instead.

The Ministry of Transportation has now put buckets beside a fence along the highway so the toadlets jump into the buckets and local volunteers and conservation groups bring them across the road into the Millar Creek area.

But this is a regular practice for the toads. It has been happening for several weeks now. According to environmental technician Kate Paul, 25,000 toadlets per day have been rescued from becoming roadkill.

"We've been walking the fence and collecting the little guys that end up in the pails. Once we've made a full sweep of the fence, we'll then take them across the highway and let them go," said Paul.

"Right now we're estimating we've transported about a million toadlets across the highway to the other side," said Paul. "The numbers are starting to decrease a little bit now, so there's a chance this migration may be over within the week."

Paul noted since in some parts of the U.S. toads are considered an endangered species, they are doing their "best to increase their survival rates" and they do their "best to help them out."

"It seems the population has just spiked, and there are thousands and thousands and thousands of them and they still seem to prefer the road than to the culverts," said Sue Pauwels, area manager with the Ministry of Transportation.

The toadlets were described as brownish green or black and were camouflaged.