The warm summer weather coupled with COVID-19 restrictions is motivating many people to get outdoors and enjoy nature. It is great to see this renewed interest in the natural environment and recognition of how important it is in our lives. However, we have all likely seen the news about how this increased human activity is affecting our natural areas; images of garbage on beaches, and overcrowded parks are popping up every week.
Here in the Fraser Valley we are extremely fortunate to have so much space available for us to explore and connect with nature. We must not forget that this space is also home to a wide variety of plants and animals, some of whom are at risk of extinction. One of these special creatures, the Western toad, is about to make its annual migration. Like many other aspects of our natural areas in the time of COVID-19, it is in danger of being loved to death…
The Fraser Valley Conservancy (FVC) has been working to protect amphibians in Chilliwack’s Ryder Lake area for over a decade, installing a “toad tunnel” under a busy road to allow safe passage for migrating frogs, toads, and salamanders. Five years after the tunnel has been installed the FVC continues to monitor the success of the tunnel during the annual summer Western toadlet migration. Mid-summer, thousands of tiny toadlets emerge from their natal wetland in search of a new forest home. Many make this journey safely thanks to the toad tunnel and drivers using the voluntary detour route. However, not all toadlets find the toad tunnel and are forced to cross the road. Sadly these toadlets are killed unintentionally by people trying to view the migration or not using the detour route. With increased traffic to the popular Elk Mountain trailhead, and people looking for new outdoor activities, road mortality for this year’s migrating toadlets may be worse than usual.
Please consider the challenges of conservation during COVID-19 when planning your summer activities this year. Most importantly, avoid traveling to Ryder Lake to view the toadlet migration. This year there are more concerns than ever, from maintaining safe social distancing for our staff and community members to the potential to disrupt this important ecological event. The Western toadlets are easily startled by humans simply observing them, causing them to waste crucial energy trying to flee. These toadlets are smaller than a dime, making them nearly impossible to see from a car.
We all find this mass migration event magical; this is one of the things that makes the Fraser Valley such a fantastic and biodiverse place to live. Please, help the FVC help the toads: this summer don’t love the toads to death! Follow the signed detour route during the migration.
Paper maps are available at the info sign at Ryder Lake Community board, 1.5 km up Elk View Road from the Bailey Road turn off.
This project is made possible by the generous support of our donors as well as grants from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program.