Residents were practically hopping to Summit Lake to take part in this year’s annual Toad Fest.
The festival was created by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) in 2010, while the FWCP was funding research at Summit Lake. Members of FWCP thought it would be a good opportunity to share information about the Western Toad, a species of concern in the province.
There are two sections of the festival. One section is an information area with about half a dozen tents from various organizations including the FCWP, BC Parks, and the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society (CKISS). The other section is a tour, where a biologist takes a group of people down to the lake’s edge and gives a brief biography of the toad in its various stages of life.
During the two-day event, attendees of the festival gather toadlets from Summit Lake and carry them across the highway to the forest where they will spend the majority of their life.
The toadlets are normally no bigger than an inch to an inch-and-a-half long.
Unfortunately, those who came to carry the toadlets across the road would leave slightly disappointed as many of the toads had not yet reached the optimum stage of development and were still tadpoles. This was a first for the festival.
“We had the earliest breeding season that we’ve seen in decades, so we moved this up into the end of July,” explained Angus Glass, the event’s organizer and communications coordinator with FWCP. “They’ve only just emerged as toadlets, but you’ll notice the toadlets have little tails, so they’re not ready to transport.”
The reason many are still in tadpole form is because June and July this year were both cooler than last year, meaning the toads didn’t get enough of a boost to hatch within the predicted time. In order for the toads to hatch from their eggs, the temperature has to be just right.
Glass said they could move them, but because many of the toadlets still have their tails, they’re pretty fragile, meaning the move would not be good for them. Their tails must be absorbed into the body before they can move up the slope into the forest.
The FWCP also discourages people from carrying toads across the highway outside of Toad Fest, as drivers are normally doing in excess of 100 kilometres per hour on that particular stretch of highway.
Toad Fest isn’t just about the toads themselves. Attendees also have the chance to learn about other species in the area, including some of the toad’s predators like the garter snake and the alligator lizard. Festival goers also had the chance to learn about the American Bullfrog, an invasive species that is proving to be detrimental to the Western Toad.
“They’re not selective eaters, so they eat anything that they can fit into their mouths, and that could be tadpoles, or toadlets, or toads themselves,” said Khaylish Fraser, a member of CKISS. “They also out-reproduce native amphibian species, and can lay up to 20,000 eggs.”
In addition to this, the American Bullfrog can be a carrier of amphibian pathogens frogs native to the area are susceptible to. This means the native amphibians can fall sick and die because of the pathogens, but the bullfrog will be fine.
There is currently a small outbreak of American bullfrogs in the Regional District of Central Kootenay. Part of the reason CKISS attended Toad Fest was because they are looking for the public’s assistance in preventing a further invasion of American Bullfrogs.
“If they think they hear or see something, or if they do hear or see something, take a picture, get a location, and contact us and report it.” said Fraser.
Whether it was learning about species threatening the Western Toad, or just learning more about the toads themselves, those who were able to make it out to the festival had a good time.
“Just seeing the thousands and thousands of tadpoles here, and how some have legs, and some don’t, and how some are actually toads already, it’s neat,” said Lee Bellamy.
While Bellamy was disappointed that people weren’t able to take the toads across the highways, he thought the festival was a great learning opportunity for kids.
“It’s good for kids to come out and see all of this, and see the lifestyle of a frog. It’s not very often you can find places like this in the province where there are thousands and thousands of tadpoles.”
This is something Glass agrees with.
“The Western Toads used to be spread across the Pacific Northwest, but distribution has really shrunk back,” he said. “BC is now the kind of centre. There are a number of lakes around here that are breeding areas, and we want to make sure that these populations remain healthy. Even though there are lots, we want to make sure they remain.”