The March of the Toads

Why did the toad cross the road? Hop on this amphibian story.

Despite a sudden period of freezing temperatures and snowfall, spring has started, and average temperatures are on the rise. That means adult toads are waking up from hibernation and starting to migrate to suitable spawning grounds – how ribbiting! 

Often, toads go back to the same pond where they were born and may even travel over a kilometre to get there, which for a 10 – 15 cm amphibian is quite the task.

You can catch toads travelling in pairs, with the smaller of the two hitching a ride on his larger colleagues back – but don’t be fooled thinking it’s a youngster being carried by a parent.

The smaller male toads will start their migration earlier and they will stop half way and wait for the larger females who already have a belly filled with eggs. When the males see a suitable mating partner, they will jump on the lady – so much for being a gentleman  – and have themselves carried to the spawning ground. What a toad of lazy buggers!

Toad road signs in Wageningen

However, over time, migration routes have been blocked by man-made infrastructures, especially roads.

Toads tend to travel between dusk and dawn, when car drivers have difficulties spotting these little animals. Road deaths, along with the loss of breeding ponds, is having a significant impact on toad populations, which have declined by 68% in the last 30 years.

Luckily, certain humans who appreciate these amphibians are coming to the rescue! Roads that cross major toad-migration routes are being blocked off, or even, in the case of the Veerweg, there is a lower speed limit during the night time.

Volunteer groups spend their entire evenings carrying toads across the road in buckets. Helping toads cross the road might seem a bit silly and childish, but it is one of the most effective nature conservation actions.

Without road blockades and volunteer groups, half the toad populations could die trying to cross roads in just a couple years.

A special facebook group has been set up for this purpose. If you find yourself wanting to take action for this toadally awesome movement, search for Paddentrek Wageningen. More help is needed, especially on days when temperatures hit 6 °C and moisture levels are high – perfect conditions for toad migration.