The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve installed three new tunnels under the highway between Tofino and Ucluelet to help prevent roadkill incidents and connect important amphibians and other wildlife to their wetland and forest habitats. (Barb Beasley photo)

Frog tunnels installed near Tofino to keep amphibians safe while hopping under highway

Three new tunnels installed in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

The West Coast is hopping up its efforts to help amphibians cross highways safely.

The region serves as an important habitat for Northern Red-legged Tree Frogs, a species at risk that pays the area back for its hospitality by distributing vital nutrients while migrating between wetlands and forests.

“They are really key parts of the ecosystem,” Dr. Barb Beasley, founding director of the Association of Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds, told the Westerly News.

“They move back and forth, so they’re like these little nutrient energy packets moving through the forest. It’s a migratory animal that is taking nutrients across the landscape so, if we block them off or kill them off at roadways, then we’re interrupting that whole ecosystem process and that’s not a good thing to do.”

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve recently installed three tunnels under the highway between Tofino and Ucluelet to help amphibians migrate across the landscape without getting run over by motorists.

Parks Canada spokesperson Nancy Hildebrand told the Westerly that the tunnels are 17 meters long with a hopping clearance of about 30cm and were constructed as part of the work being done to build a roughly 25 kilometre path through the Park Reserve.

READ MORE: Cost of trail through Pacific Rim National Park Reserve up to $51 million

She said the preparation work to construct the path included identifying and protecting potentially impacted species, like Northwestern and Wandering Salamanders, Pacific Tree Frogs and Northern Red-legged Frogs.

“Swan Lake Wetland is located approximately 500 metres from the road and is an essential breeding habitat for many species; notably the Northern Red-legged Frog, which is a species of concern. These crossings, which are similar to culverts, were installed ahead of the important migration period,” she said.

“The crossings are equipped with directional fencing and a lock block wall, which stops amphibians from crossing the road and funnels them into the crossings. Soil and logs have been placed inside to provide natural cover and to help encourage amphibians to cross through.”

She added that the decision to build the tunnels, as well as their locations, was largely guided by data collected by Beasley.

“The data shows that the frequency of road mortalities of amphibians in this area is very high compared to other locations in the Park Reserve. Dr. Beasley has worked closely with the project design engineers and construction crews to ensure that the culvert design and placement would encourage amphibians to make use of them,” Hildebrand said.

The Association of Wetland Stewards installed a similar tunnel under the highway in 2011 and Beasley said the association’s monitoring of that tunnel shows they are helping not just amphibians, but other creatures as well, like salamanders, mink, marten, ermine and even black bears.

Beasley added that the Park Reserve’s three new tunnels will reduce road mortality and boost connectivity to different habitats on each side of the highway.

“It’s been really heartbreaking to see hundreds to thousands of animals that would get killed on that stretch of highway every year so if we can do anything to minimize or reduce that amount of mortality, that’s a good thing,” she said.

The association recently wrapped up another project to help amphibian migration, working alongside the Central Westcoast Forest Society to create a path over Lost Shoe Bridge #1.

“It’s a very eventful year for the red legged frogs here this year,” Beasley said.

She explained that bridges built in B.C. are “armoured” with coarse angular rock material called riprap to limit erosion, which makes it difficult for frogs to cross as they often get stuck between jagged crevasses.

“It really does cause some issues for wildlife passage, especially if you’re a little frog and you’re trying to make your way through this riprap, it’s very challenging,” she said.

The team covered the riprap with sand and rounded grovel to create a path for frogs so that they can cross without getting stuck.

Beasley said the project was made possible by funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and support from the Ministry of Transportation.

While the new migration boosters will be a boon to frog populations, Beasley cautioned that the species faces a tough road ahead due to a variety of factors, including logging and climate change. She suggested a breeding area east of Swan Lake was logged in 2016, which coincided with a dramatic drop in the Red-legged Tree Frog population.

“They’re getting killed by cars on the highway, but they’re also losing habitat because of logging that’s happening around them,” she said. “It’s not just one thing, it’s a whole suite of issues or factors that cause declines in populations. By addressing the roadkill issue, we are helping to bolster the chances of the population surviving all of these other potential detrimental effects around them.”

She added climate change has brought dangerously colder and dryer winters to the West Coast’s amphibians, as well as more severe droughts during the summer, putting local amphibians in peril.

“If it weren’t for all the good people that are working to try and address the threats that these species experience, they would be toast. They would decline and it would be very perilous for them. And, I think, the perils are not going away, so there’s a need for continued vigilance and trying to restore habitats, habitat connectivity and protect habitats,” she said.

“They’re a huge component of the food web because they’re predators of small invertebrates living in the soil, so they have an influence over how soil is decomposed and they’re also prey items for all these other things like birds and mammals like the mink and the martin and ermine. They’re the basis of how the world works out here. If we don’t have all of these animals as a part of our ecosystem, the ecosystem is going to not produce all the things that we benefit from…They’re part of a big picture. Hishuk ish tsawalk. Everything is connected, everything is one.

Anyone wanting to support the association’s efforts is encouraged to reach out through its Association of Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds Facebook page or emailing wetlandstewards@gmail.com.



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ MORE: Partnership helps protect baby toads from being trampled near Ucluelet

READ MORE: Bizarre roadkill incident brings first confirmed bullfrog sighting to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

READ MORE: Tree frogs thriving on West Coast

Tofino,Wildlife

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Williams Lake Courthouse (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Charges laid following high-speed chase, arrest near Williams Lake Sunday

Tyrell Giroux appeared in Williams Lake Provincial Court on Monday, Oct. 26

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

Youth across B.C. took part in the Student Vote. In Cariboo Chilcotin BC Green Party David Laing got the most votes and in Cariboo North BC NDP Party Scott Elliott emerged the winner.  (Student Vote photo)
BC Student Vote 2020: Green Party wins Cariboo Chilcotin, NDP wins Cariboo North

Student vote for Cariboo ridings has different outcomes than general voting

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Tyrell Giroux was arrested by Williams Lake RCMP on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Facebook video screenshot)
Tsilhqot’in leaders call for suspension of officers seen in controversial Williams Lake arrest

Disturbing video demands an immediate, independent investigation, says TNG

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Most Read