They come by the hundreds, always under cover of night: It’s the annual migration of American toads in Upper Roxborough, a suburb of Philadelphia. And that means it’s time for the Toad Detour, when citizens and officials come together to close local roads—and educate commuters—so the amphibians can cross safely to their breeding grounds.
From late March to mid-April each year, the toads set out in search of mates from the woods at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education across busy roads to the Roxborough Reservoir. The creatures travel after dark, often, unfortunately, during rush-hour. Before local artist Lisa Levinson spearheaded the Toad Detour in 2008, the annual journey was decimating the toad population. Last year, with the help of almost 100 community volunteers, more than 700 toads safely reached the reservoir.
The long-term solution, says the Toad Detour organization, is to build an underpass for the toads. Similar underpasses for deer have proved successful in Wyoming, for example.
This year, the Toad Detour will be in place from March 26 to April 16. Philly residents can volunteer to set up traffic barricades and road signs, hand out information, count toads, and help the critters get safely to their destination by visiting Toad Detour’s website or by contacting Lisa Levinson at 215.620.2130 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Schuylkill Center also recruits volunteers for their nationwide frog monitoring program, and hosts naturalist-led visits to frog and toad habitats.