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In Somerset, it is not uncommon for roads to be closed for a few weeks in order to carry out utility work, fix potholes, or respond to police incidents. However, in a unique move, authorities have recently halted traffic to ensure the safe crossing of frogs, toads, and newts.
For a period of up to eight weeks starting on Tuesday, a section of Charlcombe Lane, which is 800 meters long and located on the outskirts of Bath, will be closed. This closure is necessary to protect one of the main routes used by toads during their migration.
Each year, the amphibians migrate across the hillside to their traditional breeding lake on the opposite side of the country road. However, many of these slow-moving animals have been killed by passing vehicles.
The locals formed a group known as Toad Rescue Charlcombe in order to assist with relocating frogs, toads, and newts. They also recorded the number of these creatures that were found alive or deceased.
The group’s numbers have been supported by the yearly road closure, which was initially put into effect in 2013. According to members, the population of amphibians has remained consistent in recent years, following a previous decline in numbers.
During the months of February and March, the amphibians typically migrate at nightfall. However, in Charlcombe Road, they can become trapped by tall stone walls. To prevent this, volunteers have been using buckets to assist the amphibians before the road closure.
According to Mike Collins, a member of the group, he felt a great sense of accomplishment and warmth from assisting pregnant amphibians in safely crossing the road.
He stated that it involves taking action and there is a lot of negative news about the state of the natural world. He believes that the thousands of volunteers participating in over 200 toad patrols are determined to make a positive impact and give nature a chance to thrive.
In the previous year, Toad Rescue Charlcombe documented a total of 2,418 toads, frogs, and newts crossing safely, but also found 77 deceased.
According to Froglife, a charity for amphibians, there are 203 teams dedicated to protecting toads across the country. In 2023, these patrols safely guided 115,177 toads to their destination. However, there are worries that factors beyond traffic are also affecting the populations.
Kathy Wormald, the head of the non-profit organization, stated to the Guardian last year that there has been a consistent rise in the amount of low figures reported by citizens in recent years.
She suggested that the fluctuating climate, with mild winters followed by prolonged cold temperatures in the spring when they typically migrate to the ponds, may be affecting their behavioral patterns.
The Natural History Museum offers a variety of suggestions for aiding the frog and toad population, such as incorporating a pond into a garden or refraining from the use of pesticides and slug pellets.