How did the toad cross the road?
Every year tens of thousands of western toadlets, each no more than the size of a dime, get squashed as they attempt their first migration from the shoreline of Summit Lake, across Highway 6, to upland habitat. That’s a load of dead nearly-endangered toads.
In 2006 the B.C. Ministry of Environment and BCMOT hopped to it, and began to address the situation through the design and installation of directional fencing and culverts (“toad tunnels”) to safely guide the toads underneath the highway.
The third annual western toadlet event - Toadfest - will be happening again at Summit Lake Provincial Park, just southeast of Nakusp, on Wednesday August 22, between 4 and 7 p.m., and Thursday August 23, between 9:00 a.m. and noon.
This free and fun community event that helps get a few toadlets safely across the highway has quickly become one of the highlight summer activities for many families in the Kootenay region.
The event is coordinated by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP), with support from B.C. Parks, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO), the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (BCMOT), and Columbia Basin Trust.
“The timing of the event is right at the start of the annual toadlet migration so we can’t guarantee numbers, and the emphasis is on education and awareness about this important western toad breeding area,” said Trevor Oussoren, program manager for the FWCP in the Columbia region. “The event provides an opportunity to talk to biologists, understand the life cycle of the western toad, and learn about other species in the watershed – and of course to have lots of fun in the process, as there will be games and live music as well!” The FWCP is a partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of B.C., and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
In addition to being able to find toadlets and carry them safely across the highway, there will be other activities to see and do, including displays of live aquatic insects, amphibians, and reptiles; information on invasive plants; face painting; and a chance to explore a simulated “toad tunnel.”
“Summit Lake is one of the key breeding areas for western toads in the Kootenay region, if not the province,” said Arrow Area Supervisor for B.C. Parks, Chris Price. “We need to ensure that it remains that way for generations to come, and a key part in doing so is ensuring that local communities know what we have here.”
The total annual toadlet migration at Summit Lake is estimated to be in the millions, and there are also significant concentrations of western toads at nearby Box and Beaver Lakes.
To ensure the safety of event participants, traffic control, donated by Yellowhead Road and Bridge (YRB), will be in place during the scheduled times, and drivers can expect very minor delays.
“We do not want anyone moving the toadlets outside of the organized event,” added Oussoren.
Camping spaces at Summit Lake Provincial Park cannot be reserved. To learn more about B.C. Parks, visit www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks. The event is free and containers for carrying the toadlets across the road will be provided. Parking is limited and carpooling is encouraged. For more information about the event visit fwcp.ca or call 250-354-6333.