WATCH: Chilliwack conservationists are hoping a new specially constructed amphibian tunnel will help toads cross the road safely during their annual migration. Nadia Stewart reports.
The lives of thousands of tiny toadlets has been spared this year thanks to a tunnel built just for them.
Every spring, countless Western Toads make their way down to Chilliwack’s wetlands to mate and lay eggs. By summer, toadlets – about the size of a fingernail – are big enough to leave the wetlands for the forest…but they have to cross Elk View Road first.
Thousands don’t make it but, this year, the Fraser Valley Conservancy wanted to change that.
“This has been a dream of the conservancy for many years now,” said Kendra Morgan, the Conservancy’s project coordinator.
“We first started working on this project in 2008 and the idea of some sort of crossing structure came about in 2010.”
That structure is a tunnel in partnership with LaFarge Construction and the Langley Concrete Group, among others. Engineers had to design a tunnel that would allow enough light to entice the tiny toads to use it, but that would be strong enough to withstand the traffic above.
“The toads would not enter a space that was dark so we had to let light into it,” explains David Redfern, LaFarge’s Vancouver Vice President and General Manager. “We had to develop a grate that would be both structural but would let enough light in to have the toads accept it as an environment.”
And, it turns out, if you build it, they will come.
“We’ve counted over 8000 toads using the tunnel,” said Morgan of this year’s migration.
The fence cost about $120,000 to build – much of which was donated by the partnering companies or raised by the conservancy group.
There is still some additional construction work to be done–a silt fence needs to be permanently installed to help guide the toadlets from the wetlands to the tunnel.