Conservation experts are due to meet in Yorkshire to draw up an action plan to help protect the nation’s toads after numbers have fallen by two-thirds during the past three decades.
Members of the region’s Toad Patrols, who work through the night during breeding season to protect the amphibians as they migrate back to their ancestral ponds, will join speakers and fellow enthusiasts at the event in Halifax’s North Bridge Leisure Centre.
Sheila Grundry, the development manager for the national reptile charity Froglife, which has organised the Yorkshire Toad Summit on Saturday, said toads nationally were struggling due to a loss of habitat, new roads and an increasing number of cars.
“Toads will return to their ancestral breeding grounds, following the same route regardless of what gets in their way,” she said.
“Over the years roads have been built or become much busier and we can lose thousands of toads in one night.
“Toads and reptiles as a whole are often overlooked as they are not beautiful but they are lovable and really important for our eco-system.”
The West Yorkshire Toad Summit, set up alongside Calderdale Council, the Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK (ARGUK) and the wildlife charity, Halifax Scientific Society, will also give volunteers the opportunity to meet other groups and create a support network.
“Our patrol volunteers are fantastic,” Ms Grundry said. “They have often been set up by people who live near migration sites and have seen what is happening. They decide it is not right and get a group together to help.
“But it can be really hard, some places are quite isolated and working at night in cold and often wet weather, you need the support of other people.”
Froglife, which was set up in 2002, works with the Department for Transport to register migratory toad crossings and there are 180 sites nationwide logged with the Government department.
Each Toad Patrol group is registered with Froglife, which provides insurance for the volunteers as well as advice packs for the patrol managers.
Breeding season takes place throughout February and March, which is when the patrols step into action, putting up signs and helping toads across when it is safe to do so. In some cases can be nightly road closures implemented by the local council.
The volunteers start work at dusk, when the toads begin to move, often staying out until the early hours to ensure as many as possible get across safely.
Ms Grundry said it can become a bit of an “obsession”, adding: “There is something really tangible about saving a toad, when you pick them up and you can see how pregnant they are and know you have helped to save them.”
The first West Yorkshire Toad Summit will be opened by the Mayor of Calderdale, Coun Dot Foster and local toad patrol managers will be sharing their insights and ideas.
Speakers will include officers from Calderdale Council’s Countryside and Woodlands team as well as Steve Blacksmith from Halifax Scientific Society and recorder for amphibians and reptiles as well as Angela Julian, the co-ordinator of ARGUK.
Calderdale Council’s Conservation Officer, Hugh Firman, said: “I’m delighted to be speaking at the West Yorkshire Toad Summit in Halifax and supporting ongoing toad conservation efforts.
“Toads are extremely vulnerable at migration time, when they use roads to reach their ancestral breeding sites. The dedicated ‘toad patrollers’, who go out whatever the weather to move toads to safety, perform a really vital role - helping to protect our important toad colonies. This is all part of our ongoing commitment to conserving biodiversity throughout the borough.”