The Wokingham Paper

Toad Patrol: Volunteers help migrating creatures cross the road

One of the volunteers from Berkshire Reptile and Amphibian Group helps a toad to safely cross the busy road. Picture: Stewart Turkington
One of the volunteers from Berkshire Reptile and Amphibian Group helps a toad to safely cross the busy road. Picture: Stewart Turkington

Volunteers from Berkshire Reptile and Amphibian Group have been on toad patrol this month.

The initiative is one of hundreds across the country that ensures the safe movement of toads across roads busy with cars.

Volunteers from the reptile and amphibian group have visited the site at Priest Hill, Farley Hill dozens of times over the last month.

They look out for toads trying to cross and then scoop them up before placing them on the other side.

Toads usually live out of water in food-rich places such as woodlands – including the woodland on the north-east side of Priest Hill. 

One of the volunteers from Berkshire Reptile and Amphibian Group helps a toad to safely cross the busy road. Picture: Stewart Turkington

Every spring they migrate to a pond south of the road, near the junction with Bungler’s Hill, to reproduce. 

Toads tend to return to the same location year after year, with some locations being used by successive generations for hundreds of years as they become accustomed to an area good for breeding.

The Borough Council worked to warn drivers by placing signs on the street — with toads on them — to warn about the animals crossing and that volunteers are working in the area.

The migration period can last up to 50 days from start to finish but depends on the weather, as the nocturnal species are most likely to move on mild, damp evenings.

Volunteers handling the toads wear nitrile gloves so there is minimum risk of oils and soaps on their hands interfering with the sensitive amphibian skin. 

The volunteers also have to consider biosecurity risks of fungal diseases and invasive water plant species, so boots are cleaned between ponds where several sites are visited.

The toads are handled as little as possible and usually carry on walking into the undergrowth once they have been put down. 

Over the last 10 years, the volunteer group has helped more than 10,000 toads in the process.

Cllr Michael Firmager, deputy executive member for environment at WBC, said: “These volunteers have done fantastic work to help safeguard the toad population in Farley Hill.

“The fact the species is thriving is a sign our borough is providing the habitats they need to continue to reproduce and sustain the wider ecosystem in the area.

“We should celebrate the community involvement in wildlife protection as this would not be happening without the dedicated work of these volunteers, giving up their evenings to ensure the toads are able to safely cross the road. We are delighted to help them with signage and officer time to assist them with their work.”

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