Lest they get gobbled up by a snake or hedgehog, toads can live up to a staggering 40 years of age. Despite this, research suggests that in recent decades the toad population has declined by 50 per cent or more in central and eastern/south eastern regions of Britain.
According to amphibian conservation charity Froglife, an estimated 20 tonnes of toads are killed on British roads every year. It sounds like the start of a bad joke: “Why did the toad cross the road?” However common toads can and do encounter hazardous road crossings during their annual pilgrims to breeding ponds.
Toads spend the majority of the year on land but migrate to large ponds, ditches and lakes to breed in spring. Possessing a strong migratory instinct, many common toads emerge from their hibernation sites and follow the same route back to ancestral breeding ponds every year, unlike frogs who will settle for the first pond they come across. These journeys, taken at night, can often bring them into contact with roads and therefore into the direct path of motorists and cyclists.
Toad fare better on roads in Richmond Park as they are closed to motorists at dusk, however cyclists can still travel through the park. During March-May, cyclists are urged to be cautious when travelling through Richmond Park to avoid squashing any toads. Toads cross the road very slowly and can often be mistaken for leaves.
After breeding, toads gradually return to their previous summer habitats to forage, and will migrate to their hibernation site again in late autumn.