Like many people up and down the UK a group of volunteers including myself have taken to removing toads from roads during our free evenings this migration season, however we were in for a bit of a surprise this year.
The Lindsayfield toad crossing in East Kilbride is a fairly urban crossing. It's located on a new road which leads to a brand new housing development, running parallel to a small burn and a SUDS pond. Both frogs and toads breed here. Many come to grief while crossing several roads during their annual migrations, but the drains (stanks) leading to the SUDS pond are the real problem.
So far we've recorded a total of 512 toads taken off the road and out of drains. Of this total, 257 were rescued out of the drains by local people but 32 of these animals were found to be dead. Joining the toads were also smaller numbers of frogs: 23 of the 31 frogs helped this year were taken from the drains, although rather interestingly none were dead. There is little chance of escape for any animals that fall into road drains and the number of casualties would undoubtedly have been far higher had the problem not come to the notice of the local people. It certainly seems that the drains were accounting for more fatalities than the cars.
The numbers of amphibians removed from the drains are almost identical to those moved off the road. The kerbs act to funnel the animals towards the drains where they fall through between the gaps in the gratings. If the drains are filled with water then toads, being not particularly strong swimmers, are liable to drown. If trapped long enough, newts and frogs are also likely to drown or starve also making it a serious issue for these species.
CARG would like to study this problem with a view to assessing the scale of the problem and raising awareness amongst the conservation community and local authority roads departments.
At this stage, we are appealing for more information on this problem from other toad patrols or from anyone else who has encountered this problem. If you help out at a toad crossing where there are drains nearby, could you have a look into them to check for any amphibians? Simply shining a torch into the drain and checking for amphibian presence should be more than enough. You will need a companion to act as a spotter for approaching traffic as your attention will be elsewhere. Please however, do not open the drains unless you have the express permission to do so from the roads department, coupled with appropriate safety measures. It’s better to leave any trapped animals rather than risk life and limb on busy roads. The ultimate aim of our study is to increase awareness among local authority roads departments and to get them to authorise preventative measures in the long run – but gathering information is the first step.
If you know of some “toads doon stanks” (or any other amphibians) please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name; a 6+ Digit OS grid reference of each affected drain; and the number & species of amphibians present in said drain. Any information you can gather on whether the animals are alive or dead would be useful. Additional information such as the distance from the breeding pond and the OS grid reference of the breeding pond would also be valuable however if you don't have this, that's not a problem.
With your help, we may be able to reduce amphibian mortality rates at these crossings.
Emma Downie, CARG Secretary