Thousands of Toads Crossing the Road Saved by Volunteers Every Year

Have you given any thoughts to toads lately?  They may not be the first creature that comes to mind when considering animal advocacy.  Indeed, the mating ritual of amphibians is not usually a concern because most toads manage to travel from their wooded habitats to a body of water for mating all by themselves and without human intervention.

Occasionally there are groups of toads that discover they need to cross dangerous roadways to get to their mating grounds.  Such is the case on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where every spring thousands of toads cross a rural road near the Roxborough Reservoir.

Photo Courtesy of Janet Lippincott

In 2009, Lisa Levinson, a local resident discovered the plight of Philadelphia’s toads and started a mission to help save them from traffic.  When she realized the moving leaves she spotted on the road were actually toads, she stopped her car and tried to get traffic to slow down for the crossings. Sadly, she noticed many of the toads had been run over by cars. Eventually a police officer parked her vehicle and assisted Levinson with her mission.

Realizing this job was going to last more than a day or two, Levinson set about making plans for an ongoing project.  She contacted local advocacy groups and the Philadelphia Police 5th District to get permits allowing volunteers to shut down traffic in order to help toads cross the road.  That first year Levinson reported they saved about 600 toads.

How Toads Mate


Toads are not a fan of sunlight and they travel mostly at night and in damp, rainy weather. In the spring, from about March through June, toads return to a water source where the females lay eggs in shallow water and the males fertilize them. After several weeks, the toadlets –which are the size of a human thumb nail—return to the woods from which their parents came.

The females are larger than the males and males can be seen hitching a ride on the backs of the females. Like all animals, toads have their own unique place in the ecosystem.  The toad diet consists of worms; insects like crickets, spiders and mosquitos; leaves and sometimes birds, mice and rats.  Helping to control the mosquito population makes toads necessary to keep around.

Toad Crossing, Today

In 2012, Levinson moved to California.  Not wanting the toads to be forgotten, she contacted The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education (SCEE), which boarders on the road these particular toads cross, and asked to have her annual toad crossing mission continue. SCEE enthusiastically agreed to continue the annual toad detour. Claire Morgan, Volunteer Coordinator at SCEE, reports the numbers of toads rescued each year has grown from 1,200 in 2012 to 2,000 in 2013.

Classes to train volunteers for the 2014 toad crossing duties have been postponed to March 1st due to the colder weather experienced in the Northeast this year. All kinds of people volunteer to assist with the toad detour, from senior citizens to children in Girl Scout and Boy Scout groups. All are welcome. If any people local to the Philadelphia area are interested in volunteering this year, they can sign up through VolunteerSpot. Once the toads start moving toward the reservoir, volunteers are scheduled between 7 – 9 PM as that is the busiest time for toads and traffic on the road. Keep up about the toad progress on Facebook.

Photo Courtesy of Janet Lippincott

The toad detour project is done entirely with volunteers; there are no grants or money earmarked for the process. SCEE donates Morgan’s time to the project to oversee the process. “Sometimes volunteers miss seeing any toads because the temperature dips and the toads decide not to cross,” said Morgan. “When they do, however, the excitement is tangible.” Morgan reports most of the local residents don’t mind the extra one third of a mile the detour causes them to traverse the neighborhood and take the detour in good stride. “Of course, there are some who complain,” she said “but they are few and far between.”

How Unique is the Philadelphia Toad Crossing?

Morgan said she was contacted last year by a fellow in England reporting there is a place in that country where toads need protection from traffic and volunteers are busy doing what is done in Philadelphia. She is unaware of others but presumes there must be other areas in the world where toads fight traffic to carry out their mating rituals. Do any Care2 readers know of such places?  Let us know in the comment section below.

Photo Credit: Kerry Wixted


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Oleg Kobetz
Oleg Kobets3 years ago

Thank you

Tracy B.
Tracy B4 years ago

I used to see toads by the dozens when I was little.....and as the years went by, there were fewer and fewer.....until we no longer saw any in my yard. Only in the last year or so, have I seen a return of toads to my yard, and I'm so happy! Hoping they'll keep the mosquito population down!

Seeing stories like this is so awesome to read, it is nice to see so many people volunteering to help such a small creature...... the world needs more people taking action for the small critters of the earth!

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you Megan, for Sharing this!

Glen Venezio
Glen Venezio4 years ago

this is great...............also see


Past Member
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks to Lisa and the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education we were able to make a documentary on The Toad Detour, you can watch it at this link:

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B4 years ago

Yes - thank you Heather - there are schemes like this in the UK. Near Egham (just outside of London) there are even special road signs alerting drivers to be aware of "Toads Crossing". I have also heard of underpasses being built in some places to allow toads to cross the road safely. More of these for all our wildlife, I say!!!

Ei A.
Ei R4 years ago

What a wonderful story of people help even the littlest of toads.

Beverly S.
Beverly S4 years ago

Yes, I think about toads every year in the Spring and Summer, as I wonder why I don't see them anymore. When I was a kid, we would go out at dusk and see them hopping about, catch them, and gently let them go... where did they go?