The toads of South Langley were on the move Wednesday morning.
Thousands of western toads began pouring out of a few properties near 18th Avenue and starting their annual migration into nearby wooded areas, said Laura Newberry, a conservation biologist for A Rocha Canada.
“Because we had rain this morning, that’s why we’re seeing the big push,” said Newberry.
The young toads are very small – not much larger than a nickel. But there are a lot of them.
Newberry said A Rocha has a very rough estimate of about 60,000 hatched this year and matured from tadpoles to emerge from one of two breeding ponds near 18th Avenue, west of 200th Street.
Signs are up warning drivers to steer clear of parts of 18th and 20th Avenues and 196th Street for the time being.
The toads in past years have carpeted the roads – which can lead to mass deaths under the wheels of cars.
The western toad is a species of special concern under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, and A Rocha staff, interns, and volunteers have been trying to keep them off the roads entirely for the past couple of years.
A funnel-style fence has been built leading up to a culvert on 20th Avenue, to funnel the toads under the road.
Once north of 20th Avenue, they’ll disperse into the woods, said Newberry.
Some will head off into Campbell Valley Regional Park, some will head as far west into Surrey as A Rocha’s headquarters at 192nd Street.
A fair number of them will provide food for other animals. A garter snake was hanging around the toad fence on Wednesday morning, its stomach already swollen with what was likely a large meal of toadlets.
A raccoon mother and her pair of kits were also nearby, likely waiting to grab a snack, said Newberry. Birds and small mammals will also eat a fair number of the toads.
There is still much to learn about the local toad population, noted Newberry. A Rocha has only been monitoring the migration for seven years.
Last year the toads didn’t seem to migrate at all during a long, hot, dry summer.
This year, one of the two ponds where they breed didn’t produce any toadlets at all. It’s possible they are reproducing on a cycle, she said.
The Township has posted signs on several local roads and drivers are asked to stay off certain areas unless they are residents.
The migration rush was initiated by the weather, but toads are likely to keep moving for a week or two.