Whistler's Western Toads are mixed up.
Tens of thousands of Western Toads in Whistler need your help — and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is asking for volunteers to assist in explaining to visitors why public access to Lost Lake has been temporarily closed. The situation will be reassessed Aug. 12 to see of the area can be re-opened to foot and bike traffic.
There is only a small window in which the toads have a chance to leave the lake and get to the forest.
An earlier June migration had the toads following their usual route, but this week the toads are taking the path at Lost Lake — right through the park and dangerously underfoot of tourists and locals.
"They're leaving the beach and going right up that path toward the warming hut, trying to get into the woods — there's thousands of them," said Resort Municipality food truck manager Chris Quinlan from Lost Lake Monday where he was re-locating the on-site food-truck due to the migration. Barricades were set up Monday morning in order to protect the route from cyclists and people walking.
"There's still a ton of people walking and riding up past there and so they're all just stopping at all these barricades and watching all the toads," said Quinlan, adding that some children were helping park staff.
"There are some kids picking them up, putting them in little buckets — taking them across to the woods," said Quinlan, who added that the children were wearing rubber gloves, as it is harmful for humans to touch the young toads.
The toads — which measure maybe six centimetres long — have to travel a fair distance. During peak hours an estimated 1,800 toads per hour can cross the beach trail. Weather conditions can significantly alter their behaviour, but the toadlets tend to be most active in crossing areas from 8 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. during the migration period.
Western toads are blue-listed in British Columbia, which means they are indigenous species that are of special concern and vulnerable in their environment.
"They have to get across the grass at Lost Lake, come up the path and get to the woods — you're probably looking at 50 metres that they're coming up from the shore of the lake to the parking lot," he said.
Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said Monday that she gets lots of letters from concerned citizens who want to make sure the toads have a safe route.
"Apparently they have minds of their own," Wilhelm-Morden said with a laugh adding that park staff would monitor the situation as they have been since 2005.
The RMOW has installed permanent features including fencing, signage and an underpass to protect the breeding and tadpole habitat along the shoreline of Lost Lake Park and migration.
In addition to permanent features a number of temporary fences, signs, boardwalks are installed closer to migration.
If you can help monitor the toads contact Kate Brandon, fish and wildlife technician at the RMOW on 604-935-8323 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.