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Great public turnout helps thousands of toadlets cross a B.C. road

This western toadlet was helped safely across the highway during a previous Toadfest

Toadfest an example of how community engagement is critical to conservation

Why did more than 13,000 toadlets cross the road? Because they had so much help getting to the other side.

For the fourth straight year, British Columbians descended upon Summit Lake Provincial Park south of Nakusp for what has become an important event in the lives of dime-sized western toadlets.

"Toadfest", as it has come to be known, attracted more than 400 people between Aug 27 and 28. And while it was a chance for the public to learn more about western toads, visit displays, listen to live music, and enjoy kids’ activities, the focus was on collecting and carrying the toadlets across the road.

The event was organized by the Columbia region of the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, a partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of B.C., First Nations and local community groups to support fish and wildlife impacted by the construction of BC Hydro dams. The event was also supported by B.C. Parks, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Columbia Basin Trust, and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Cutting down on road mortality at Summit Lake

Like many other amphibians, western toads have been experiencing significant population declines throughout many parts of their historic range due to habitat loss, disease, pollution, and introduced predators.

At Summit Lake, road mortality is a serious issue as the toadlets and adult toads move from between the lake to the upland habitat where live spend their life when not breeding.

Even though there are a couple of toad tunnels under the highway, and the FWCP has installed wildlife fencing to guides the toads into these tunnels, every year tens of thousands of western toadlets still get squashed on the road.

"Typically the toadlet migration lasts for about four to six weeks during the late summer," explained FWCP communications coordinator and event organizer, Angus Glass. "The toadlets were out in good numbers this year and we estimate that we carried approximately 13,250 toadlets carried across the road, but the event is more about education and awareness.

"This could not be done without the supporting partners and more than 30 volunteer toad guides and helpers."

One of those volunteer toad guides, who had planned a camping trip to the Kootenay region to coincide with Toadfest, was BC Hydro's Patrice Rother. 

"It was exciting to be a part of it, and help out,"said Rother, a manager for the FWCP, which also delivers fish and wildlife projects in the Coast and Peace regions of the province. "You can really see how events like this make a strong impression on both the kids and adults; here they quite literally have a hands-on opportunity to help a species at risk, and you can visibly see the connection that they make, not just with the toads but with the broader environment.

"The enthusiasm of the participants was amazing. It is a great way that the FWCP can help support thriving and sustainable watersheds, and community engagement in our work is critical."