It’s not easy being a toad on the road.
Or any creature, for that matter.
One million animals are killed on roads in the Greater Toronto Area each year, according to a new study conducted by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and the University of Toronto.
Heading up the analysis of data — gathered over two decades at 23 locations throughout the GTA — was U of T undergraduate student Nicole Regimbal, who is completing a double major in ecology and evolutionary biology and environmental ethics. She was helped by TRCA researchers Jonathan Ruppert and Andrew Chin.
Together they found that amphibians — toads, frogs, salamanders and others — are dying at a “disproportionately higher” rater than any other creature in study areas.
Specifically affected are the American toad, green frog, gray treefrog and northern leopard frog, the study’s findings showed.
Since amphibians are cold-blooded, they are attracted to warm roads. They’re also slow-moving and frequently cross roads, making them particularly vulnerable.
“Being specifically vulnerable is not something that’s specifically shocking,” Regimbal told the toronto sun of her findings, adding she hopes her work will help spark conversation that ultimately leads to increased eco-system protection.
Regimbal said the amphibian fatality issue exists year-round, but deaths spike during breeding season when the creatures are changing habitats.
“I just think we need to be aware of how we relate to the environment,” Regimbal said. “I just think we should care. We are the direct cause of this. We kind of have a responsibility to do what we can to mitigate it.”
According to Regimbal, amphibians are experiencing global population decline and road mortality is one of the major contributors.
The solution, according to Regimbal, are eco-roadways — aka a green highway — in which passages built under or over a road, allowing small animals to safely cross.
Road closures have also been implemented in Ontario, such as in 2017 in Burlington, to allow Jefferson salamandars the chance to cross the road safely.
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Regimbal was born and raised in New Jersey before arriving in Toronto for her post-secondary studies.
“Such an interesting opportunity,” she said. “I think it’s especially special to have an impact on such an urbanized area.”
The TRCA is one of 36 conservation authorities in the province mandated to protect natural environments. It oversees a region comprising nine watersheds and stretches from Ajax to Mississauga, and from Lake Ontario to Dufferin County.