The annual migration of tiny protected toads is underway in Whistler, B.C., prompting a road closure and other restrictions — though not everyone seems to be obeying the amphibian’s right-of-way.
Western toads, which are designated as a species of special concern, breed in popular Lost Lake then emerge as dime-sized toadlets to migrate into the surrounding forest.
At peak times, as many as 1,800 toadlets per hour may cross nearby trails, according to the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
“In the past, many of the tiny toads have been crushed en route,” states Whistler’s website, which explains the temporary road closure to Lost Lake and the restrictions on nearby trails that started Aug. 5.
However, on the busy holiday weekend, many trail users were observed not obeying the signs — even with volunteers standing nearby — and blew by gates on their bikes.
Amphibians are at risk worldwide, with one in three species threatened by extinction, due in part to human disturbance such as habitat destruction and disease transfer.
Western Toads, which are protected under the B.C. Wildlife Act, are not endangered but are considered vulnerable — especially during their annual migration, according to the B.C. Environment Ministry.
Record number of breeding pairs
Whistler has spent years monitoring the Western toads at Lost Lake and installed signs and fences to protect the breeding population.
This May, 41 breeding pairs were spotted in the popular swimming hole, which is a record number, according to a release from the municipality.
By late July, the shallows of Lost Lake were frothing with hundreds of thousands of tadpoles, which children were warned not to touch or pick up.
By Aug. 3, the annual migration had begun, with up to 40,000 tiny toadlets hopping across trails and roads into the forest.
It is expected to last several weeks, and may lead to further closures on the trails or beach, depending on where the toads move.
No one from Whistler was available to talk about the migration or closures.