“Let’s try and stay off the grass,” Christy Juteau warned a group of about 20 people, as they walked along a Langley street Saturday afternoon (July 14), heads down, looking for signs of the annual toad migration.
Juteau, the national conservation science director of the A Rocha environmental group, didn’t want anyone accidentally stepping on the tiny toadlets that have been known to swarm the area of 20 Avenue between 196 and 200 Streets during breeding season.
Juteau said the tiny amphibians started to emerge about two days earlier but the hot, dry weather was making them move slower than usual.
“We have seen them starting to come in this direction,” Juteau said.
“We know where they are.”
The toads have been staying within the damp vegetation next to the wetlands on private property, an area that is not accessible to the tour.
Originally about 50 people had signed up for the tour, but after A Rocha issued an advisory that no toads would likely be seen, only about 20 people turned up.
And while they all kept a close eye out for the dime-sized creatures, none were found.
“They are missing in action,” said Surrey resident Stephen Gow, who brought his wife and children with him.
Gow said it was still a worthwhile, “educational” trip.
A Rocha has announced a new alternate tour date: Saturday, July 21 at 9 a.m. when the temperature will be cooler and the odds of seeing the migration will be better.
Those interested are asked to register in advance online at the A Rocha website at arocha.ca/event/a-rocha-toad-tour.
Interested parties can also sign up for one of the toad road surveys, scheduled on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Toad road surveys involve walking approximately 2km of road and counting the live and dead toads observed.
The Western toad is a species at risk.
Each year in late June and early July, the toadlets migrate from nearby breeding ponds to other areas of Langley and Surrey.
Last year, an estimated 96,000 toadlets made the trip.
A Rocha asked the Township of Langley to implement a temporary road closure on 20 Avenue to prevent the carnage that occurs when cars run over the toadlets.
The section of 20 Avenue where the toads cross is a collector road, and traffic would have to be redirected to 16 Avenue and 196 Street, where many accidents have occurred, a staff report warned.
The City of Surrey would have to sign off on the road closure as well.
Township council decided instead to put up signage to warn motorists about the toad migration, and A Rocha is installing wildlife fencing to help herd them.
A Rocha, an organization based in Surrey that has done environmental work on the Little Campbell Watershed, has been monitoring the toadlet migration for five years.
It has reported counting anywhere from 30 toads in 2015 to 96,000 in 2017.