When some kids from the Cowichan area were asked if they wanted to monitor toads and other amphibians on the move near highways, they jumped on it!
The kids leapt at the chance to test road survey kits, developed by the Young Naturalists’ Club (YNC) of BC, when they learned that efforts to observe and record amphibian travel could potentially lower the number of frogs, toads, salamanders and newts that are killed on B.C. highways. We supplied the Cowichan Weekend YNC and Cowichan Home Learners YNC with reflective safety vests and “toad crossing T-shirts” to support the youngsters’ efforts and help keep them safe.
Amphibians are on the move in the spring, summer and fall when they migrate between wintering areas on dry land, and wetlands and pools. Once information about amphibian travel and “hotspots” on highways is known, then the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure can help the creatures to cross roads. We build underpasses and erect fencing to guide the amphibians to safe passage. There are also times when assisting amphibians means the ministry working with volunteers who pick up and relocate toads during massive migrations like the 2008 one near Courtenay, or more typical events like the annual Summit Lake Toadfest.
“Did amphibians cross the road?” and “Could amphibians cross the road?” are key questions for the young naturalists testing out the road survey kit in the Cowichan area. Biologist Elke Wind, one of Canada’s leading Western Toad experts, is working with the kids to pilot the easy-to-understand survey instructions and try out the kits which contain everything needed to conduct a road survey. It’s anticipated that by the fall, the kits will be available to YNCs across B.C. to conduct surveys in their locales, under the leadership of a regional biologist. Data will then be entered into the Ministry of Environment’s B.C. Frogwatch Program website and collated, mapped and archived.
NatureWILD , the YNC’s educational and entertaining magazine, devoted its first issue of 2015 to amphibians and included the story of the Cowichan volunteers’ work. It notes the role of young naturalists to “observe and conserve.” This sounds like a heavy responsibility for five to 12 year-olds, but the young naturalists and people guiding them maintain perspective with fun, age-suitable jokes in the amphibian edition.
You can find out about YNCs in your area, by checking Find a YNC Club / My Club. We’re looking forward to hearing how these energetic young people do with the pilot road survey materials and what they learned about their local amphibians!