Sunday, August 05, 2007

Toad migrations cause rural traffic hazards

In some parts of Britain during March and early April, special signs warn motorists that they may encounter multitudes of common toads crossing the roads.

The toads are on their way to breed in the ponds where they were spawned. Each spring they leave their hibernation places in the surrounding countryside and follow the same migration routes across fields, through hedgerows and sometimes over busy roads. Most of the toads return at night when poor visibility puts them at risk. Enthusiastic volunteers turn out to gather them in buckets and carry them safely across the roads.

Even when they are not spurred by the desire to breed, toads show powerful homing instincts. One female is known to have returned every spring for 36 years to the same spot under some steps leading into an English garden. Some toads have been captured, tagged for identification and released far from home, only to make their way back with remarkable speed.

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