Gerry Schreiber of the Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sound and Dennis Hetu of the Toquaht First Nation stand next to a new educational sign designed to make visitors aware of baby western toads at Cadillac Lake. (Photo - Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sound)

Gerry Schreiber of the Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sound and Dennis Hetu of the Toquaht First Nation stand next to a new educational sign designed to make visitors aware of baby western toads at Cadillac Lake. (Photo - Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sound)

Partnership helps protect baby toads from being trampled near Ucluelet

Tiny western toadlets are emerging from Cadillac Lake and making their way to the forest.

The Toquaht First Nation has partnered with the Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sound to protect baby toads from being trampled at an abandoned mine site that’s become a popular recreation destination.

Armed with funding from B.C.’s Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the partners have installed barriers and educational signage around Cadillac Lake, where tiny western toadlets, roughly the size of a fingernail, are emerging and making their way to the forest.

“It’s interesting because they blasted this big, deep, iron ore mine and when they abandoned it in the 1960’s it then became this beautiful little lake…It’s a neat habitat. It’s, kind of, unusual for us to protect what was an iron ore site but, on the other hand, lots of mines get reclaimed into beautiful wetlands,” said Barb Beasley of the Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sound.

Western toads are considered a species at risk in Canada. Cadillac Lake is believed to be one of just six active western toad breeding habitats on the West Coast and one of only 30 on Vancouver Island, according to Beasley.

She said Cadillac Lake is a popular recreational spot for visitors, who pose a significant threat to the emerging toadlets in July and August.

“The toadlets will fill the entire area once they’ve all emerged. People need to be really careful where they’re stepping and going,” Beasley said. “We still want people to be able to stop there, have a picnic and go for a swim, but we don’t want people to trample the toads.”

She said all dogs must be leashed in the area to avoid disrupting the toadlets and that humans must also leave the tiny amphibians alone.

“We know that there have been incidences where kids have brought them back in buckets and then tried to release them or played with them,” she said. “Leave them in the wild.”