One of the migrating toadlets rests briefly on the hand of conservationist Laura Newberry near a South Brookswood pond. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Fewer squished toads the goal of this year’s Fraser Valley migration, say conservationists

The tiny western toadlets are about to embark on an epic journey of a couple of kilometres

The toads are on the move in South Langley, but this year they’ll have a bit more protection when they cross local streets.

“They’ve just emerged from the wetland,” said Christy Juteau, the conservation science director of A Rocha Canada, a local environmental group.

The western toads hatch in huge numbers in a cluster of ponds and wetlands in the Fernridge area, before they start a brief but intense migration to nearby woodlands.

Along the way, they often cross several local roads, including 20th Avenue between 196th and 200th Streets, and parts of 196th and 24th Avenue near the Langley-Surrey border.

This can be disastrous for the young toadlets, which are about the size of nickels. The young toads sweep through the area by the thousands – about 60,000 are expected to emerge from ponds this year.

Even slow traffic can kill hundreds of them because the toads can carpet the roads. There’s simply no way for drivers to avoid them.

A Rocha, which is based in the Little Campbell River watershed that runs through South Surrey and Langley, asked Langley Township for help keeping drivers off the key routes for the week of the migration this year.

Last year, the Township staff said they didn’t have enough advance warning and could not divert traffic. Warning signs were put up telling drivers there might be toads.

However, dry weather meant no migration took place last year. The toads stayed close to their original ponds. This year there’s been rain and cooler weather.

“They’re able to move more freely in this cooler, moister weather,” said Juteau.

This year, with earlier contact with A Rocha, the Township has installed signs asking that only local drivers use the key roads during the migration, and diverting others away for the week-long migration, which is expected to hit local roads as soon as this Friday, around June 5.

Township director of public works Roeland Zwaag said Township staff are closely monitoring the migration.

This year, large signs will tell drivers to detour around the key areas, with only local traffic allowed into the neighbourhood.

“Hopefully, people will be attentive to that,” said Juteau.

The A Rocha crews are also busy trying to divert as many toads as possible away from the road and through a culvert that runs under 20th Avenue.

They’ve built a 400 metre funnel-shaped drift fence from near the spawning pond to the culvert, said Laura Newberry, a conservationist with A Rocha.

As the toads migrate to the northeast, they’ll run up against the fence and hopefully stay off the road. The fence was built with the cooperation of private property owners in the area.

If people want to see the toad migration, Newberry asked that they not simply drive to the area. If the toads are on the move, that could mean a lot of squished animals.

Curious people can contact the conservationists through a Facebook group dubbed A Rocha BC Conservation. There will be tours for those interested in seeing the toads.

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