Lost Lake Park is already busy on the weekends, but things are about to get a lot more crowded as tens of thousands of Western Toads migrate from the lake to the surrounding forests.
The migration takes place every August at a different location, most likely near where most of the tadpoles were hatched in the spring. This year the toads are leaving near Lost Lake beach, travelling under a specially built bridge, and across the event area into the forest. The toads will stay in the woods for the rest of their lives, heading back to the water in about four years to lay and fertilize their own eggs.
The migration got underway on Monday, and is expected to be complete by the end of the week, although sometimes they come in several waves.
Visitors to Lost Lake Park are asked to be aware of the toadlets, and avoid walking, biking, or letting their dogs lose in areas where the toads are migrating. The beach connector trail will be closed until the migration is complete.
“Last year we guessed there were around 20,000 toads but it’s hard to guess because there are toads everywhere,” said Vesna Young, fisheries and wildlife technician for the Resort Municipality of Whistler. “Generally they make a bee-line to the mature forest, but right now they’re spread out in a 150-metre section through the events area.”
It’s estimated that just one per cent of all eggs laid in a season will survive to maturity, as eggs and tadpoles are consumed by animals and insects, and toadlets are consumed by birds and animals. An untold number of toadlets were also killed by people who were unaware of the toads’ existence until a few years ago when the municipality and environmental groups teamed up to increase public awareness and temporarily close sections of trail through migration areas.
This year the RMOW, Habitat Improvement Team, and Whistler Fisheries Stewardship group teamed up to build a 20-metre bridge and toad underpass that can be placed along the trail where toads are migrating.
While the Western Toad is not an endangered species in the Whistler area, it is listed as a species of concern elsewhere. As a result of human development and habitat loss, the south coast of B.C. is now the centre of the toads’ North American range.
The toadlets are tiny, and range from one to two centimetres in length during the migration, and will grow to about seven to nine centimetres.