Toads on Roads is a long-term UK-based project coordinated by the charity Froglife. Each year hundreds of ‘toad patrollers’ go out in mild conditions after dusk in early spring to help toads that are trying to reach their breeding sites. Common toads (Bufo bufo) breed in ancestral ponds and follow habitual migration routes to reach their breeding sites. Hundreds or thousands of toads may congregate at breeding ponds for just a few weeks each year. Unfortunately, migration routes often take toads across roads, and adults experience high levels of mortality. Toad patrollers are vital in helping the toads to reach their ponds safely. Since the first patrols were set up in the early 1980s, over 1.5 million common toads have been helped across roads by dedicated volunteers. Froglife has over 180 registered active toad patrols in the UK and in 2018 over 98,000 toads were saved from traffic collisions by volunteers. However, despite these huge efforts, common toads are in decline and research by Froglife and the University of Zurich has shown that this species has declined by 68% over the past 30 years across parts of England (Petrovan & Schmidt, 2016).
Froglife are committed to identifying the causes of the decline in the common toad. This year we are investigating the potential impacts of roads on juvenile common toads. Each summer, hundreds of thousands of newly emerged juvenile toads leave ponds and disperse into surrounding habitats to seek suitable foraging areas. There is a high risk that juveniles encounter and try to cross roads. The degree of the problem is not yet known since juveniles are very small (less than 10 mm) and are highly secretive. However, if high numbers of juveniles are being killed on roads each year, this will have impacts on recruitment into the adult population and potentially lead to population declines. Currently, toad patrollers only help adult toads cross roads to reach breeding ponds in the spring. However, Froglife is carrying out a trial research project with toad patrollers to determine the risk posed to juveniles during summer dispersal. This July groups of volunteers are going to be walking around traditional toad breeding ponds looking for juveniles and monitoring their dispersal routes. This will provide valuable information on the movements of juveniles and will enable Froglife to develop further conservation actions for the common toad.
Petrovan, S. P. & Schmidt, B. R. (2016). Volunteer conservation action data reveals large-scale and long-term negative population trends of a widespread amphibian, the common toad (Bufo bufo). PLOS ONE, 11(10), e0161943. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161943.