Google helps keep death off the toads

A great leap forward in toad safety has been taken after the launch of a satellite map identifying toad crossing hotspots.With spring on the way, amorous toads will be jumping back to breeding grounds in the next few weeks, risking their lives as they cross the region's busy roads.

A great leap forward in toad safety has been taken after the launch of a satellite map identifying toad crossing hotspots.

With spring on the way, amorous toads will be jumping back to breeding grounds in the next few weeks, risking their lives as they cross the region's busy roads.

But now motorists and conservationists will be able to identify reported toad crossing points on internet site Google Earth after a map of toad crossings was drawn up using information compiled by the amphibian and reptile organisation Froglife.

The Google Earth map shows around 60 spots in Norfolk and includes information on whether the crossing is active and if patrols are taking place.


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John Heaser, toad warden in Little Melton, said: 'It [a road in the village] was quite an appalling site. There used to be thousands of squashed toads in the road. With traffic levels as they are now, none of them will cross the road alive.

'The map is an interesting idea because it will stimulate people's interest. Unfortunately, in Norfolk we are not aware of that many active toad patrols yet.

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'There are quite a lot of sites listed on Google Earth but there are not that many sites where there are people helping them.

'The problem for toads is they are quite picky about where they breed. They spend most of the year miles away from where they are likely to breed; 80pc of them have to cross a road to get to their pond. They usually go back to where they were born because of instinct.'

He said it was hard for motorists to see the toads as they tend to head back to the water when it is dark and wet.

Toad patrollers operate at times when they suspect the toads may be heading back to the pond and they pick them up, put them in buckets and take them across the road.

Conservationists at Froglife said the Google Earth application could have value for the planning sector too, giving highway agencies further access to information on amphibian populations surrounding the country's roads.

The software can also be used to help volunteers to set up patrols in their area and update Froglife records about toad crossing sites.

To view the Google Earth map and find out more about toads on the road, go to www.froglife.org/ toadsonroads; for information on the patrol in Little Melton and who to contact to set up your own patrol, go to www.toadwatch.org.

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