With March now well under way, and temperatures finally starting to increase, there is a lot more activity from our local wildlife to look out for. In particular, March is a key month for our breeding amphibians, such as the common toad. Common toads have spent the winter living away from water bodies and resting in leaf litter, buried down in mud, and under dead wood or compost heaps. They are now beginning to emerge and start their migration to their ancestral breeding ponds.
Common toads start migrating in spring on mild and damp evenings, and journey to the same pond every year. They are very particular, following the same route each year regardless of what may be in their way. Unfortunately, this can often lead them to crossing roads, resulting in high toad mortality.
In the last 30 years, the common toad has declined by 68% and it is now listed as a priority species under the Scottish Biodiversity List. This reduction is largely due to loss of suitable habit and high mortality rates on roads. Froglife has estimated that around 20 tonnes of toads are killed on roads in the UK every year. This equates to at least 250,000 toads. If this reduction continues, all common toads could be gone by 2030.
So, what can you do to help?
If you are driving at night, particularly on warmer and wetter evenings, and in areas near woodlands and ponds, please take extra care and look out for toads crossing the roads. Since toads will tend to use the same routes to the ponds each year, it is possible to recognise popular crossing sites and some of these can become overrun with toads making them unmissable! You can see individual toads crossing, but also sometimes you will notice male toads piggy backing on the females.
If there is a road you know of in your area, you can help conservationists by registering toad crossing sites with organisations such as Froglife. This is helpful as some sites can become eligible for warning signs to be installed or building wildlife tunnels under the roads. These wildlife tunnels are a great and viable option to aid lots of wildlife in crossing roads. But there are currently too few of them, and more support is needed to start linking these important habitats together across our countryside.
Alternatively, anyone can volunteer with existing toad patrols to help toads cross the roads safely. In 2019, 107,000 toads were helped across roads by toad patrol volunteers. Patrolling is simple, all that is involved is carefully collecting toads from one side of the road and transporting them in a bucket to the other side. If you are interested more information and resources on toad patrols can be found on the Froglife website.
Please spread the word and let’s minimise the loss of toads on the road!