British Columbia·Photos

Tiny toads close road in Whistler, B.C.

Tens of thousands of tiny protected toads are migrating in Whistler — though not everyone seems to be obeying the amphibian's right-of-way.

At peak times, 1,800 toadlets an hour will migrate across trails from a popular swimming hole to the forest

The toadlets are tough to see and can be easily crushed underfoot. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

The annual migration of tiny protected toads is underway in Whistler, B.C., prompting a road closure and other restrictions — though not everyone seems to be obeying the amphibian's right-of-way.

Western toads, which are designated as a species of special concern, breed in popular Lost Lake then emerge as dime-sized toadlets to migrate into the surrounding forest.

At peak times, as many as 1,800 toadlets per hour may cross nearby trails, according to the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

A volunteer carefully shows children the tiny toadlets, careful not to transfer any oils from her skin to the sensitive amphibians. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

"In the past, many of the tiny toads have been crushed en route," states Whistler's website, which explains the temporary road closure to Lost Lake and the restrictions on nearby trails that started Aug. 5.

However, on the busy holiday weekend, many trail users were observed not obeying the signs — even with volunteers standing nearby — and blew by gates on their bikes.

Trail users near Lost Lake are told to walk their bikes and watch their step near Lost Lake, due to tens of thousands of migrating toadlets, but not everyone is listening. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

Amphibians are at risk worldwide, with one in three species threatened by extinction, due in part to human disturbance such as habitat destruction and disease transfer.

Western Toads, which are protected under the B.C. Wildlife Act, are not endangered but are considered vulnerable — especially during their annual migration, according to the B.C. Environment Ministry.

Tiny toads migrate across trails in Whistler, B.C.

4 years ago
Duration 0:28
Protected Western toads attempt the journey from Lost Lake to the surrounding forest 0:28

Record number of breeding pairs

Whistler has spent years monitoring the Western toads at Lost Lake and installed signs and fences to protect the breeding population.

This May, 41 breeding pairs were spotted in the popular swimming hole, which is a record number, according to a release from the municipality.

By late July, the shallows of Lost Lake were frothing with hundreds of thousands of tadpoles, which children were warned not to touch or pick up.

Western toad tadpoles at Lost Lake in Whistler, B.C., on July 23, 2017. This year, the lake saw a record number of breeding pairs. (Lisa Johnson/CBC)

By Aug. 3, the annual migration had begun, with up to 40,000 tiny toadlets hopping across trails and roads into the forest.

It is expected to last several weeks, and may lead to further closures on the trails or beach, depending on where the toads move.

No one from Whistler was available to talk about the migration or closures.

Lost Lake, a popular swimming hole in Whistler, is only accessible by foot during the toad migration. Changes have been made to transit and food truck locations too. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)