If you've been down to Lost Lake recently, you might have caught sight of a Whistler summer tradition — the migration of the Western Toad.
The toadlets have been gathering on the shores of the lake in recent weeks, preparing to make their journey to the forest beyond the beach.
"About three weeks ago they were all over the shoreline," noted Kate Brandon, environmental technician with the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW).
The RMOW has been collecting data on the toads since 2005, and using it to help protect and enhance their habitat, Brandon said.
"It's used to kind of get a glimpse of patterns and an understanding of how things are changing, but also for being proactive," she said.
Warm weather, like Whistler experienced in late May/early June, can lead to an early migration.
"So we have been sort of planning for that, potentially," Brandon said.
The RMOW is once again preparing to help the toads on their journey by installing fencing, signage and an underpass for the toads to safely navigate.
People are reminded not to touch the toads, as oils in human skin can be harmful.
The numbers of migrating toads can fluctuate from year to year, with anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 tadpoles being counted on the shoreline annually since 2005, Brandon said.
It's unfortunate that Whistler's Western Toad population makes its migration at the resort's most popular beach, but it does provide a good learning opportunity, said local ecologist and member of the Whistler Naturalists Bob Brett.
"Their migration obviously passes through really highly populated areas, and so their survival in migrating is reduced, but the good news about that is that it's also a reminder that we live in a natural world in which toads can still survive and it's in a very visible place for people to get a sense of how the ecosystem works," Brett said.
Over the years, Brett has watched hundreds of kids and families learn from the toads' journey.
"In a way it's a really cool thing that such a visible natural cycle is embedded right in the middle of Whistler in such a visible area," he said.
Lost Lake was the original home to BioBlitz — the nature-cataloguing annual event that is gearing up for its 10th instalment.
"This year should push us over 4,000 known species in Whistler, of which almost a third of them would be from BioBlitz and the rest mainly from the Whistler Biodiversity Project," Brett said.
The contributions of the event are two-fold, he added: the scientific data collected and the awareness generated.
"The first reason that many of us came here was for nature, and to experience nature," Brett said.
"And in the midst of Crankworx and Ironman and stagettes and everything else that happens in the summer, I think It's an important thing to keep that emphasis on nature and kind of remind people that we really don't want to turn Whistler into downtown Vancouver or Disneyland."
BioBlitz is scheduled for Sat. July 9, kicking off at Alta Lake Park.
Go to www.whistlernaturalists.ca for details.
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