Local Conservation Fund Feature: Western Toads

The Kootenay Conservation Program (KCP) in partnership with the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) provides funding for projects that benefit conservation in the rural areas around Kootenay Lake through the Kootenay Lake Local Conservation Fund (KLLCF). The purpose of the KLLCF is to provide local financial support for important projects that will contribute to the conservation of our valuable natural areas; one step towards restoring and preserving a healthy environment.

In a remote, mountain pass between Kaslo and New Denver in the Selkirk Mountains, western toads are getting some assistance from the Valhalla Wilderness Society (VWS). Slicing through this area is Highway 31A, a very popular route for summer tourists traveling between Kootenay Lake and the Slocan Valley at the exact time of year that thousands of adult western toads and tens of thousands of baby toads (called “toadlets”) are attempting to cross the highway during their migration from breeding areas in shallow lakes to the surrounding forests.“The annual slaughter of toads on Highway 31A was reaching a critical point by 2015 when we started our research program” explains VWS biologist Wayne McCrory. Because toads cross this highway three times a year – breeding adults cross twice and toadlets once – VWS biologists have been quickly translating everything they learn about toad behaviour and ecology into reducing vehicle mortality.

This project is benefiting from the advice of herpetologist Jakob Dulisse and lessons learned at Summit Lake for how to make this stretch of Highway 31A more toad-friendly. In 2016, the VWS research team expanded their survey efforts and, with assistance from the Kootenay Lake Local Conservation Fund, began experimenting with directional fencing to give migrating toadlets safe-passage under the highway using existing bridges and culverts. “This year, we will place greater emphasis on reducing adult highway mortality, especially pregnant females because each one killed on the road means an unnecessary loss of 12,000-16,000 eggs which over time could impact the survivability of this toad population into the future ,” added McCrory.

For more information please visit: http://www.vws.org/projects/working-to-conserve-endangered-western-toads-in-west-kootenay/