Whistler builds 'toadlet highway' to aid migration of Western toad
VANCOUVER -- Road closures are in effect near Lost Lake Park in Whistler to make way for the annual Western toad migration, and a new "toadlet highway" is in place to help the tiny, warty amphibians along their way.
While the road closures are temporary, the new infrastructure is permanent.
To ensure the success of the migration and aid the viability of the closely observed species, the Resort Municipality of Whistler has built an underpass below the Valley Trail as well as a boardwalk near the Blackcomb Creek Bridge at the intersection of Lost Lake Loop and Cedar Way.
For the meantime, the municipality has also changed vehicle and shuttle access to the park and is asking all visitors to walk mindfully and dismount from bicycles to avoid crushing the dime-sized toadlets.
Thousands of teensy toads leave the lake at this time of year after reaching a new stage of development and migrate across various roadways and paths around the lake to reach the surrounding forest where they will spend the rest of their lifespan.
According to the municipality, crews work to protect Western toads and study the species to understand the overall health of the greater ecosystem.
The Western toad population at Lost Lake has been monitored for the past 13 years.
Over the summer, conservationists observed 80 pairs of breeding toads, according to the municipality.
Each female can lay up to 17,000 eggs, which then form into tens of thousands of tadpoles. Those quickly group together to form large, black masses along the shoreline of Lost Lake and, when mature enough, metamorphose into toads and leave their watery hatchery for the forest.
Because of COVID-19 protocols, volunteers will not be allowed to help conservationists move toads along their migration route this year.
Western toads are sensitive to changes in their environment and have a designated status under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Efforts to ensure their safety are an annual event at Whistler. The migration also draws tourists looking to take in the spectacle.
But since this time of year also marks the most vulnerable transition for the toads, new rules are in place to protect the Western toad habitat and ensure their safety.
Beginning today until the migration is complete, the Resort Municipality of Whistler has introduced the following changes:
- The Lost Lake access road and parking lot will be closed to all vehicle traffic.
- Visitors can walk to Lost Lake Park to observe the migration and speak with naturalists working in the park. Cyclists must dismount from their bicycles and walk.
- Volunteers will not be allowed to help move toads this year because of COVID-19 protocols.
- During the access road closure, the free Lost Lake shuttle will experience minor changes, and visitors will be dropped off at the entrance to Lost Lake Park on Blackcomb Way.
- There will be no food trucks at Lost Lake Park while the access road is closed.
- The Lost Lake beach, lawn areas and docks remain open.
- Signs and gates will be in place to indicate the location of toads and ensure visitors watch where they are stepping.