Around about this time of year, when the weather starts to warm up, toads start thinking about leaving their hibernation hidey-holes and migrating to their breeding grounds.
The common toad hibernates in October when the days start getting colder and there's a hint of snow in the air, and they know winter is creeping up on them. When an animal hibernates, typically its body temperature and heart rate will drop and its metabolism will be lowered so that it uses very little energy; hence, they typically do not eat during this time. Therefore, they need to find a safe, frost-free place to hide themselves in order to survive our British weather - somewhere that's not too wet. They often find themselves a little spot under a stone or under some loose tree bark, or they might dig themselves a hole to climb in as their hind feet have hardened knobs on them that enable them to do this.
When spring arrives, the longer days and rising soil and air temperatures tempt the toads out, usually the males first. They then start their migration towards their breeding ponds; they have an extraordinary homing instinct and will make a beeline for the ponds, regardless of what obstacles happen to be in their way. This can involve them crossing roads, so all over the UK, wildlife supporters organise Toad Patrols to monitor the roads crossed by the toads to help when needed, and some roads (where possible) are actually closed off for the duration of the migration, which usually takes about two weeks.
It is very beneficial having toads in gardens as they keep the pests down, i.e. they eat up the snails, slugs and insects that would damage any plants. So wherever possible, we should all try to help our little rugged friends to survive – and one way we can do this is helping them across the road!
Written by Leslie Chetland
1st April 2019