Volunteers needed to help amorous toads cross road safely
An appeal has been launched for volunteers to help in a rescue mission in the Mendips – to make sure amorous toads cross roads safely in the spring.
The problem is that unlike frogs, which have an enthusiastic nature during mating season and hop energetically across roads, toads in love are rather more restrained and walk sedately and slowly to pursue romantic trysts.
Toads not being blessed with much in the way of road sense, this puts them in danger of their lives if they are heading for the other side regardless of whatever human wheeled traffic is bearing down on them.
One of those behind the appeal is Joy Trusler, a member of both the Somerset Wildlife Trust and the county Reptile and Amphibian Group.
She said: "Toads are extremely vulnerable at this time of year because they are very loyal and migrate up to half a mile or more from where they hibernate to the same watery area to breed time after time for generations.
"They need very specific conditions during February and March – mild and humid – and only begin to move when the sun goes down.
"If there is a road in their path they cross in the dark in their hundreds and the mortality rate is such that it has a huge effect on their numbers."
The females are larger than the males, which often hitch a piggy-back lift which makes their progress even slower.
They spawn in garden and field ponds, but many of these have been filled in over the years.
Mrs Trusler said: "Because so many farmland ponds have been lost, garden ones are vital for the future.
"People should really welcome them as they eat many pests such as slugs and snails."
The males fertilise the eggs as they are laid by the females in long strands among weeds and plant roots at a greater depth than is chosen by frogs, then they gradually move back to the surrounding countryside to feed and find a suitably sheltered site to hibernate again.
The next generation are very tiny when they leave their pond and take as much as three years to become sexually mature. In the wild they can survive for 10 to 12 years but in captivity up to 40 years.
The two areas where volunteers are needed to take part in evening toad patrols are at Stock Hill, between Priddy and Wells, and in Winscombe along the popular short cut for motorists along Winscombe Hill road.
Anyone interested should contact Mrs Trusler on 01934 852522 or by email at email@example.com or John Dickson, chairman of the Somerset Reptile and Amphibian Group, on 01749 672928 email firstname.lastname@example.org.