We’re now well into the dog days of summer, the hottest,
sultriest time of year when legions of shadeseekers and sunworshippers head to
our local lakes and parks for a dip and a nap. But as you stroll or roll out to
Lost Lake, watch your step… no one wants to preface a swim in the lake with the
inadvertent destruction of baby toads.
Around Lost Lake this time of the year would be better referred
to as the Toad Days of August as the Valley Trail becomes a veritable toad road
as miniature Western Toads make the miraculous transformation from lakebound
tadpole (swimmer) to forest dweller (hiker). In this phase of its life the
juvenile toad is known as a “metamorph.” Although the Western Toad (
) may not be the cutest species using
the Valley Trail this summer, it is a valuable indicator regarding the overall
health of Whistler’s ecosystem and biodiversity, and the presence of Western
Toads indicates good water quality.
To better help understand Whistler’s Western Toad, the
Community Foundation of Whistler, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and
AWARE supported a one year long research project to learn more about the Lost
Lake population. Researcher Wendy Horan worked to identify migration trends so
efforts can be made in the future to help metamorphs migrate with greater ease.
“Freshly emerged from tadpole phase, the toads are tiny,
usually no bigger than a quarter, and therefore often difficult to see until it
is too late. However, in their congregations it will appear as though the
ground is moving. Remember the saying "there’s safety in numbers"?
The Western Toad has this nailed down. By moving across the landscape in large
masses more survive into adulthood,” Horan wrote as part of her research.
With the metamorphs most likely emerging from Lost Lake this
week, the tiny toads will be moving across the Valley Trail to enter the forest
for their next life phase. Dedicated volunteers and RMOW staff joined the
Whistler-Blackcomb Habitat Improvement Team (HIT) this past Tuesday to locate
where the western toads were migrating and worked to build a temporary toadlet
underpass to allow hikers and bikers to continue to use the trail system
without trampling toads.
In general, the toad is decreasing across its range and it is
important to acquire as much information as possible to, hopefully, protect the
amphibian and reverse the trend as offspring return to the exact spot they
hatched to lay their eggs. B.C. is now the centre of the Western Toads North
American range as copious habitat disruption in the U.S. has apparently thrown
the population there into a tailspin. It’s equally important to remember to
appreciate the toad and its offspring from a distance. Only then will the
species have a chance of surviving into the near future. These toadlets grow to
maturity in two to three years, and may live 10 years or more.