Helping hand for toad travellers

CONSERVATIONISTS are doing their best to ensure our amphibian friends don't "croak" this spring – or only in the way they usually do.For it's the time of toads on the roads and wildlife lovers have been voicing their concern over the numbers of the creatures which each year get killed by cars.

CONSERVATIONISTS are doing their best to ensure our amphibian friends don't "croak" this spring – or only in the way they usually do.

For it's the time of toads on the roads and wildlife lovers have been voicing their concern over the numbers of the creatures which each year get killed by cars.

The accidents happen as the toads make their way back to ponds from their winter hideaways ready to mate and leave their spawn.

But today many of their ancient and traditional routes cross busy roads, leaving huge numbers to croak en route.

In villages across Suffolk, special road signs are now being put up to warn drivers of toads crossing in the hope that less will be crushed to death this year.

Peter Ling, of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Suffolk Naturalists' Society, said work had been taking place to identify as many of the toads' routes as possible.

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"In recent years, far more ponds have been lost than have been created and through monitoring we have been able to track the toads," said Mr Ling.

"These creatures are getting rarer and rarer and we have lost quite a lot through fatalities on the roads.

"It is awful when you are out walking and see them squashed on the road.

"It is difficult because as a car driver there is probably very little you can do to avoid a toad if it is right in the car's path, but we hope the signs will make drivers aware and be a little bit more careful and drive slower."

In Mr Ling's home village of Kirton, near Felixstowe, signs are placed on the road leading into the village from Newbourne, and now new signs have been put up on identified migration routes in Back Lane and Church Lane.

The signs will remain up from now until May 31 and then be removed until next year when the toads will again be out in force.

Mr Ling said environmental groups were doing all they could to encourage gardeners and landowners to create new habitat for toads.

"Unfortunately, they don't have the ooh, ahh factor of many of the animals which we have living in our countryside and gardens, but they are an important part of our diverse wildlife and it would be great shame to lose them," he said.

WEBLINK: www.offwell.free-online/toads.htm

fastfacts

TOADS IN A HOLE:

n There are two kinds of toad native to Britain – the common toad and the rarer natterjack.

n Natterjacks are declining in number, live mostly on the East Anglian coastal dunes, and can be recognised by the yellow stripe down their backs.

n Toads lay eggs in water – their spawn is a long length of jelly wrapped around pond plants compared with the tiny baubles of frog spawn.

n Toads eat insects, worms, slugs and snails, catching them with their sticky tongues which can extend 25mm.

n They hibernate from mid-October to March, when they emerge and migrate to the breeding ponds.

n In captivity they live up to 40 years, but in the wild the average lifespan is around 12 years.

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