Amphibians Trapped in Drains

Amphibians in the UK are in decline. The common toad for example is sadly becoming less and less common. UK charity Froglife believes the common toad has declined by as much as two thirds in 30 years.

Aside from habitat loss part of the problem may well be the increase in traffic on our roads. Amphibians characteristically travel to and from their breeding and hibernation grounds throughout the year and inevitably need to cross busy roads. Many are run over, but it’s not just cars that make our roads a dangerous place for amphibians.

Toad in a Hole

Roads represent a significant obstacle to amphibians, they have steep curbs that are hard to traverse. Toads have a particularly tough time as they generally walk rather than hop and have much shorter back legs than frogs. This makes it hard for them to scale the steep roadside curbs and as a result, they will often follow the curbs along the roadway soon meeting one of the frequently placed drains where they either fall or jump voluntarily into the drains.

Once they are in there is no way out and a slow death is inevitable.

A roadside drain where amphibians get trapped.
A drain, good news for keeping the road free of surface water, bad news if you’re an amphibian.

Guardian Angels

Some toads will get very lucky and get rescued by selfless volunteers from a local amphibian conservation group, but they are the lucky ones.

To try to reduce the impact of this problem some amphibian groups are installing special ‘ladders’ allowing amphibians to escape their watery prison.

What Can You Do?

To help you could join your own local amphibian and reptile conservation group. A search on the Internet for such groups should provide you with the details of a group near you.

Alternatively, you could check nearby drains yourself to see if there are any captives. Of course, you should not be lifting any drain covers without permission, if you do you could cause yourself serious damage. Drain covers are heavy and dangerous and should only be handled by those trained to do so. However, if you can get hold of a net with a long handle it is usually possible to post it through the bars and fish out any stricken amphibians without disturbing the drain cover.

It goes without saying do not try this on a busy road or where you can’t see traffic coming. Don’t cause danger to yourself or others.

An net for rescuing toads and frogs from drains.
Here’s a drain rescue net made out of a standard aquarium net tied to a stick giving the extra reach required to hit the drain water. On the end of the stick, I’ve screwed a jar lid, this prevents the net from disappearing down the drain if dropped.

Check Your House Drains Too

It’s not just roadside drains that a frog, toad or newt can fall foul of, normal household drains can trap amphibians too. Any drains are worth checking such as those at the bottom of your guttering pipes or at the edges of a patio or drive.

As ever, be careful. Don’t overreach and injure yourself and don’t drop anything down the drain you can’t then get out.

Whether it’s a roadside, household, or any other type of drain, once you’ve rescued your amphibians be sure to release them in a quiet overgrown area away from any drains.

Rescued from a drain. Frogs and toads in a bucket.
These 14 toads and 1 large frog got lucky. They were fished out of roadside drains and released in undergrowth away from any roads.

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