A recent article in the Tyee featured a conservation project led by the Fraser Valley Conservancy (FVC) that is helping Chilliwack amphibians make their annual migrations unscathed. Each year, thousands of amphibians are killed as they attempt to cross Ryder Lake’s Elk View Road in order to move between their foraging and breeding grounds. Among the casualties are a significant number of Western Toads (Bufo Boreas), a Federally-listed as a species of concern. In 2007, a concerned group of Ryder Lake residents contacted the Conservancy to see if anything could be done to stop the carnage. Initially, the Conservancy enlisted the help of volunteers to literally carry bucketfuls of the young toads across the road, but it was a far-from-perfect solution: in addition to requiring a lot of manpower, rescued toads would often become disorientated and end up hopping back into traffic. After identifying the primary crossing sites used by the toads, the Conservancy looked at implementing a more sustainable solution, modelled after another HCTF-funded toad migration project on Vancouver Island. This involved the strategic placement of a box culvert to act as a frog-friendly underpass, keeping the amphibians safely separated from vehicles. Thanks to funding from Environment Canada and the donation of in-kind materials and labour from the Langely Concrete Group and Lafarge construction, the toad tunnel became a reality on June 4th, 2015. A few weeks later, FVC volunteers and staff members installed over 350 meters of directional fencing to direct migrating Western toads towards the new crossing structure.
While the completion of the tunnel was certainly cause for celebration, the project hasn’t ended there. After installation, it’s important to monitor how the passage is working, both to make refinements and help inform the design of future “ecopasses”. HCTF has provided a $10,000 grant for monitoring using video and time-lapse photography, as well as fence and road surveys. You can view a sample of the video monitoring below: