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 Toad update 2021
July 27, 2021: The Western Toad migration is in full swing at Lost Lake Park!
As of Tuesday, July 27, the Canine Cove off-leash dog area is closed due to the presence of hundreds of juvenile Western Toads. Environmental Technicians will continue to monitor this area daily and it will be re-opened as soon as toads have left the area.
As of Sunday, July 18, the Lost Lake Access Road and Parking Lot closed to both vehicle and pedestrian traffic to allow thousands of juvenile Western Toads to safely migrate over the road. The closure is monitored daily but the road is not expected to re-open before August 3, 2021. Visitors are encouraged to walk or bike into Lost Lake Park via the Valley Trail or Lost Lake Loop Trail to view the migration and learn more about Western Toads from onsite Naturalists. The Whistler Bike Valet will be offering free, secure, bicycle parking at Lost Lake every Friday through Sunday during the summer months.
During the access road closure, the free Lost Lake Shuttle will continue to run with minor changes, visitors will now be dropped off at the entrance to Lost Lake Park on Blackcomb Way. From there, visitors can walk 400 meters down the Valley Trail to reach the park lawns and beach.
Food Trucks will continued to be scheduled at Lost Lake Park during the migration. Click here for the full schedule: Park Eats | Resort Municipality of Whistler.
A small portion of the Beachcut trail closed on July 16, 2021 but all other trails, beaches, docks and lawn areas remain open at Lost Lake Park. We just ask that those visiting Lost Lake Park pay attention to posted signage and step carefully. Newly emerged Western Toads are well camouflaged and about the size of a dime so they can be easily crushed under foot. In addition, please do not touch tadpoles or toads. This species is extremely sensitive and oils, soaps and sunscreen found on our hands can be very damaging.
- Additional closures: The migration routes for Western Toads through Lost Lake Park can change dramatically from year to year. This means that there is always a possibility for additional closures of trail systems, park lawn areas or even the Lost Lake Beach in order to help protect migrating toads. These closures are not pre-planned and will occur reactively in the case that toads choose to migrate through these areas.
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.
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.
Recently, the RMOW has built new infrastructure to help migrating toads pass safely through the park. In 2020, a toad underpass was constructed under the Valley Trail just behind the events lawn. In spring of 2021, a second underpass was installed under the Lost Lake Loop Trail, between the Lost Lake Beach and Barking Bay. Underpasses have been strategically placed to allow toads to follow preferred migration routes without crossing high traffic trail networks. In addition to underpasses, the RMOW installed a new log retaining wall along Lost Lake beach to discourage toads from migrating onto park lawn areas where historic mortality numbers have been very high.
Once toads begin to migrate across the Lost Lake access road and parking lot, these areas will close to all vehicle traffic. When this happens, the free Lost Lake shuttle will continue to run, but visitors will be dropped off at the entrance to Lost Lake Park on Blackcomb Way and will need to walk the remaining 500 meters to the beach.
Lost Lake Beach, lawns and docks remain open. We just ask that those visiting Lost Lake Park during this period step carefully and walk bicycles as toads are no bigger than the size of a dime and can be easily crushed under foot. 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 RMOW's environmental technicians and volunteers maintain a presence to monitor the migration and help the tiny toads move safely from the beach to the forest areas.
When does the migration happen?
Migration typically takes two to four weeks between the end of July and end of August.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Learn more about Western toads and other species at risk.