Thousands of tiny toads killed in traffic during mass migration in Chilliwack

By Marina Wang

This week thousands of small brown flecks will be seen hopping across the highway at Ryder Lake as the Western toad makes its annual migration. Conservationists have constructed a tunnel underneath the road to help the juvenile toads cross safely, but thousands of tiny toadlets will miss the tunnel and be crushed by oncoming traffic

“This year’s migration is a big one, which is great news!” reads the Fraser Valley Conservancy website. “But the more toadlets we have migrating from the wetland, the more toadlets we find trying to cross on the road – especially the ones using migration routes above the toad tunnel.”

An estimation of the number of toads crossing the critical stretch of highway at Ryder Lake and Elk View Road is in the hundreds of thousands, and researchers estimate that between 15,000 to 20,000 toads will be killed on the highway this season.

Western toads, which have a Species at Risk protection status of “special concern”, breed in the Ryder Lake wetlands and migrate annually to nearby boreal forests.

Voluntary detour routes along Elk View Road have been set up by conservationists. “During this time we’re asking that folks heading up Elk View Road to watch for the toad detour route signs along the way,” reads the website. “Every driver who chooses to go around can save hundreds of tiny toads!”

The researchers warned that even if a vehicle is driving cautiously, the tiny, camouflaged toads are nearly impossible to see from the car and will still be run over.

Last year, a western toad crossing warranted road closures in Whistler, where nearly 2000 toadlets crossed the highway per hour. Other mass amphibian crossings have occurred in Langley, Coquitlam and Squamish.

Updates and videos on the toad crossing can be seen on the Fraser Valley Conservancy website.

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