The front yard of Joyce Schouten’s Langley home was almost completely covered Monday morning in what appeared to be toadlets, tiny, immature amphibians, probably from the nearby lagoon that serves as breeding habitat for the Western toad.
“The patio was just black,” Schouten said.
“It was covered.”
Schouten awoke to see her Husky-German-Shepherd cross Sharla sitting morosely on the patio, surrounded by the fingernail-sized light green and grey creatures swarming through her property.
“It didn’t seem to bother her, but I don’t think she likes it,” Schouten said.
It is not the first time her home in the 1700 block of 197A Street has experienced a larger-than-normal influx.
“It was about 15 years ago (when the last big visitation occurred), but I figure there were more this time.”
Schouten’s granddaughter Ashley Schouten said the tiny toadlets are regular visitors, but not in such large numbers.
“Last year, you’d see 10 around,” she said, “nothing compared to this.”
Ashley was using a broom to keep the tiny visitors from getting in whenever the door was opened.
Ashley’s 14-month-old son Grayson didn’t seem bothered by the visitors, but he seemed a bit frustrated because he was being kept off the front lawn where he usually plays.
By the middle of the morning, the flow of crawling and hopping critters had begun to ease but it resumed the next day.
The Schoutens’ house is just across the street from a former gravel pit that houses a small lagoon that is a breeding site for the Western toad, a vulnerable “blue-listed” species of amphibian.
The A Rocha environmental stewardship group has lobbied the Township of Langley for measures to limit development around the wetland areas that could threaten the already vulnerable Western toad population.
The group believes the former gravel pit near 18 Avenue and 196 Street is the only confirmed Western Toad breeding site in the Campbell River watershed.
A Rocha and the Little Campbell River Watershed Society have recommended turning the site, which is currently split between six private properties, into parkland.
A Rocha suggests keeping large rural lot sizes around the lagoon, to “retain and re-establish” native vegetation, encourage continued monitoring of the toad population and water quality and work with Metro Vancouver and neighbouring Surrey to protect wetlands and migration corridors.
In Oregon, a similar strategy was successfully used to help a struggling population of Western toads rebound.
An online summary posted by the BC Conservation Data Centre says while Western toad have a large range in B.C., populations have declined in some areas.
“The cause of these declines remains unclear; breeding sites/populations may be rare and relatively isolated, toads may not adjust well to rural and urban development, and the species may be particularly susceptible to disease,” the centre said.
The primary threat to the majority of Western Toads in B.C. is said to be “habitat degradation and loss” especially in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island where populations have fallen.
Recent surveys suggest that the toads have declined in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island, while stable in the rest of B.C. “Rapid declines of populations in parts of the U.S. have been observed in the past decade.”