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Toadfest set for Summit Lake, Nakusp August 22-23

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Public invited to help toadlets cross the road in popular annual event

The third annual western toadlet event — Toadfest — is set for Summit Lake Provincial Park, just southeast of Nakusp, on Aug. 22 and 23rd.

The free community event, which runs from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday and 9 a.m. to noon on Thursday, is set up to help a few toadlets safely cross the highway. And it has has quickly become a must-do summer activity 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.

What's happening this year

In addition to being able to find toadlets and carry them safely across the highway, families can view live aquatic insects, amphibians, and reptiles on display, learn about invasive plans and explore a simulated “toad tunnel.” And there's face painting, too.

What are these toadlets?

Every year tens of thousands of western toadlets, each not 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.

In 2006 the B.C. Ministry of Environment and BCMOT 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. Project partners are currently working to monitor and evaluate their effectiveness.

“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.”

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

More about western toads:

  • Western toads are listed federally as a "species of special concern" and are blue listed in the province.
  • Once widespread throughout North America, their distribution has diminished considerably in recent decades, especially in the United States and south coast B.C. where some local populations have disappeared.
  • Habitat loss and road mortality are thought to be among the leading causes for population decline.
  • Adult western toads descend from upland habitat in the spring, laying their eggs on the shoreline of Summit Lake.
  • The juvenile toads start emerging from the lake around mid-August and make their way back to upland areas where they forage until they reach adulthood, returning then to Summit Lake to breed, completing the migration circle.
  • The total annual toadlet migration at Summit Lake is estimated to be in the millions.
  • There are also significant concentrations of western toads at nearby Box and Beaver Lakes.