Whistler's Lost Lake Park acts as the breeding ground for Whistler's largest population of Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas), a sensitive species native to British Columbia. Every year, thousands of Western Toads migrate from the shores of Lost Lake Park to the surrounding forest.
Western toads at Lost Lake Park
Lost Lake Park is the breeding ground for Whistler's largest Western Toad population. We are very lucky to host such a large population of this sensitive species right here in our own backyard. Despite being barely the size of a dime, the Western toadlets are an integral part of the Lost Lake ecology. Tadpoles feed on detritus in the lake, which helps keep our lake water clean, benefiting humans and other species. The dime-sized toadlets have also found a place in the hearts of the many volunteers who have helped them on their journey from the lake to forest.
Western toads are native to British Columbia and are sensitive to changes in their environment. Human activities—especially roads and urban development that compromise forests and wetlands— are leading to the loss of suitable habitat and the creation of migration barriers for amphibians. Western Toad populations are particularly vulnerable during the tadpole and “toadlet” life stages.
The great migration: right here in Whistler
It's that time of year again! Visitors can find thousands of western toad tadpoles congregating along the beach area in the warm, shallow water of Lost Lake. You can observe the tadpoles but please DO NOT TOUCH! Tadpoles are extremely sensitive and oils from our skin can harm them. The tadpoles grow and develop in Lost Lake until they are ready to emerge from the lake as tiny toadlets between late July and August. These toadlets must then make the great migration from the lake to the surrounding forest where they will mature into adult toads before returning to Lost Lake to breed. As the toadlets emerge from the lake, they must cross the beach, trails, lawns and roads that are busy with bikes, pedestrians and vehicles. In the past, many of the tiny toads have been crushed en route. To help give the toads a better chance at survival, the RMOW and partners have worked together to find ways to help the toads travel safely from the beach to the forest.
When does the migration happen?
Migration typically takes two to four weeks between the end of July and end of August. In 2018, the toads started to migrate on July 19.
How many migrate?
It is extremely difficult to estimate exactly how many toads there are migrating. Each female may lay up to 20,000 eggs and this years breeding pair count peaked at 40 pairs. This number is our best indicator of estimating population size.
How does the municipality help?
The RMOW has installed permanent features such as signage, fencing and an underpass to protect breeding and tadpole habitat. Closer to the migration, numerous temporary fences, signs and boardwalks are installed to help protect the migrating toadlets.
In the Spring of 2020, the RMOW constructed an underpass for the toads to aid with their migration. The underpass was built under the Cedar Way Trail at Lost Lake Park in June 2020. This section of trail can be extremely busy with Park visitors and this underpass should greatly help their safe passage under the trail.
During migration, the Lost Lake access road and parking lot may be closed to all vehicle traffic. Lost Lake Beach, grassy areas and beach cut trail remain open to foot traffic only, with posted detours at all trail junctions for those on bikes and with dogs. These areas may be subject to closure if they happen to coincide with major toadlet migratory pathways. This is difficult to predict as chosen migratory pathways can vary widely from year to year.
The food truck is re-routed to Lakeside Park for the duration of migration.
The free Lost Lake shuttle will drop visitors off at the entrance to Lost Lake Park on Blackcomb Way rather than in the Lost Lake parking lot.
The RMOW's environmental technicians and volunteers maintain a presence to monitor the migration and help the toadlets safely move from the beach to the forest areas.
Inventory and monitoring
- The RMOW has been monitoring the Western Toads at Lost Lake Park since 2005.
- The Western Toad population at Lost Lake, along with other monitored species populations, can provide insight into the broader health of Whistler’s ecosystems.
- Monitoring the stages and development of the tadpoles throughout the summer enables the RMOW to proactively prepare for the migration and focus on public education.
- The RMOW observes around 35,000–40,000 toads annually during migration.
Policy and planning
- The RMOW is working to integrate protection of Western toads and other species at risk and their habitat at a policy level, for example in the Official Community Plan.
- The RMOW considers Western toads and other species at risk and their habitat when reviewing development proposals.
- With respect to parks, facilities and events planning, the RMOW occasionally closes the special events area at Lost Lake Park during the migration period to support the passage of Western toads. While this may result in some initial disappointment for those having to postpone their special events, the RMOW is confident that saving the tiny toads makes it worth the wait.
Working with partners
- It takes a village to support the toads.
- The RMOW works with multiple community partners on Western toad monitoring and migration initiatives, including the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group, the Community Foundation of Whistler, the Whistler Naturalists, the Whistler Museum and Archives and many more toadally awesome community members.
On the ground
- The RMOW has installed permanent features including fencing, signs and an underpass to protect the breeding and tadpole habitat along the shoreline of Lost Lake Park and migration route to the forest.
- In addition to permanent features, a number of temporary fences, signs, boardwalks are installed closer to migration.
- The RMOW may close sections of Lost Lake Park during migration to support the toads’ safe access to the forest areas.
- To protect the toads during the summer migration period, the RMOW asks residents and visitors to be cautious when biking or walking in the area.
- Residents and guests are encouraged to be careful, be respectful and help the little guys make their way home.
How can you help?
- If you visit Lost Lake Park during the summer Western toad migration, be careful, please be respectful and help the tiny toads journey safely to their forest home.
- Volunteer to help the toads migrate safely. Contact our Environmental Stewardship team: email@example.com.
- Learn more about Western toads and other species at risk.