Now at first glance that may sound like an unsavory part of a recipe from an old witch’s cookbook, but you know that being affable, warmhearted toads, we would never dream of advocating such things! What it is, however, is a pretty good way to travel…if you’re a tiny toad and you happen to need a ride.
Today we ask you to hang up your suit and tie, leave your cell phone in the drawer, don your best hip waders and join us down at the pond as we take you on an adventure of the grandest, and tiniest, proportions.
If it is true that it takes a village to raise a child, then just how many folks are needed when there are twelve thousand little ones? Luckily for these tiny western toads, lots of folks are happy to lend a hand, and it all started with one man named Kent Ball.
Kent and his wife Libby moved to the area about fifteen years ago. Kent began to notice that once a year, hoards of miniature toads crossed his road at the same spot. He also began to notice, much to his chagrin, that many of them met an unfortunate end before making it over to the other side. So he did what any friend of little green bumpy things would do, he scooped them up in his coffee cup and carried them across the road. Over and over again, day after day, until all of the toadlets he could possibly carry were merrily hopping off to greener pastures on the elusive “other side of the road.” Over time, friends and neighbours noticed what Kent was doing and started pitching in as well.
Kent kept thinking there just had to be a better way, so about four years ago he contacted the biology department of the local university and got the “go-ahead” to fabricate a fence to corral the toadlets into ice cream buckets so they could be carried across the road by volunteers in larger numbers. It would take him two days to construct the fence each year by himself, pounding wooden stakes into gravel that feels more like concrete. But this did not deter this man from his labour of love. In fact, one year the toadlets started crossing at the exact moment he and his wife were leaving on a camping trip, so of course he backed the camper up and willingly spent his vacation as a toad gondola instead!
This year, a few volunteers came out to help build the fence. Wooden stakes have been traded for rebar, but the work is still no easy chore. Once the stakes are in, heavy plastic is attached and taped, and the bottom covered in gravel to safely direct the toadlets into the waiting ice cream buckets.
The toadlets weren’t the only ones dodging errant, speeding vehicles this day! Bright orange vests and signs warning of the toad migration help ensure everyone makes it safely to the other side.
In this finished section, we can really get a sense of how this ingenious yet simple fence made of donated materials works. It may not be a work of art, but it certainly does the job!
Now if delightfully wee toads aren’t enough to get you out of your warm bed on a Sunday morning, perhaps a rare glance at teenaged boys working outside just might tempt you! All joking aside, these young men were truly terrific. They worked really hard, and quite frankly, I don’t think we would have finished the fence in one day if not for their muscle-power!
The toadlets are undoubtedly happy that they have such good friends to help them. It is inspiring to see young people involved in projects like this, and it cannot help but leave you with a feeling of optimism about who will be taking over from us in caring for our communities and ultimately our world.
Here you can see how the ice cream buckets are sunken into the ground so that the toadlets will gently fall into them. During the busy times, the buckets can fill every fifteen minutes. Volunteers then carefully scoop them up by hand and put them into another bucket to carry them across the road. The buckets are then laid on their side and the toadlets hop away at their own pace. This goes on for about a week during daylight hours.
Now, let’s finally see what all of the fuss is about….
Now, being a couple of toads ourselves, we really don’t need to tell you all how much we love these little guys. But there were a few things even we didn’t know about them.
Western toads are found from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia, as well as Alaska and some other parts of the United States, and Mexico. Although it is pretty common to see them in our neck of the woods, they are actually considered endangered in the southern U.S. and Mexico. Here in Canada they are protected under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and the B.C. Wildlife Act, which means that you may not put them in a casserole or keep them as pets!
They start their lives in ponds and shallow lakes as tadpoles, and turn into toadlets in about three weeks. The toadlets are about the size of a fingernail, but they grow to the size of a man’s fist when they are adults. They live out their adult lives in clearcuts and wetlands, and return to the pond to spawn. More information on Western Toads can be found here at E. Wind Consulting. This story was also featured in our local newspaper the Times-Colonist and on CBC radio, where Kent shared some really great information on the migration project and helped to bring more awareness to the issue. His end goal is to have the Ministry of Transportation install permanent culverts to end the need for the toads to cross the road at all.
We give the final word, or words as it were, to Kent Ball who explains the plight of the western toad in his famous song “Three Toad Boogie”. Take it away Kent! || Three Toad Boogie – © Kent Ball
Thanks ever so much for coming along with us to visit our favourite people….the toads! As always, we welcome your feedback so please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments. Thanks for your visit, see you again soon!
Please visit our gallery of 43 images of the “Western Toad Rescue Project“.