Yes they can look ugly and yes we’ve never met anyone who likes frog slime – but – frogs and toads are actually fantastic creatures and a very valuable part of nature’s ecosystem. Unfortunately, many of Britain’s frogs and toads are under threat. Here are the top ten (simple) ways to help protect and preserve these wonderful creatures.
1. CREATE FROG & TOAD HABITATS (MICRO HOUSES / PONDS)
Water is essential to both frogs and toads. Creating a pond or area of calm water is the first step and will almost magically attract new amphibian inhabitants. It’s best if the pond has a steady supply of fresh water or is a balanced and self cleaning ecosystem. Stagnant water is unattractive to both humans and most wildlife.
During key breeding months the pond may look as if it is overwhelmed with spawn but it’s a normal process and will often disappear naturally within a few days. Please make sure that there is at least one log or track that will allow frogs to climb out of the pond. It’s also worth noting that frogs and toads will tend to avoid colonising ponds that have been stocked with predatory fish. Try and avoid moving frogs from one pond to another as this should be considered a last resort.
When it comes to actual homes for frogs and toads there is a wide range of commercially available products which are usually made from ceramic materials or weather resistant wood in a wide variety of designs. However, a simple clay pot turned upside down with some soil scooped away at the base for an entrance works very well too. Some rocks around and on top of the pot will both hide it and discourage other creatures from turning it over.
Other kinds of habitats include hollowed out logs and carefully piled bricks that create an interior chamber. Habitats should always be placed out of direct sunlight in a cool and shady area. If you can create a small but permanent pile of old logs nearby this will provide the frogs and toads with natural cover. As the logs decompose they will attract food sources for the frogs.
2. THAWING ICED PONDS
There is some debate about frozen ponds and the need for human intervention. The rule of thumb is that domestic ponds may need assistance as their generally small size means that their ecosystems are more likely to suffer from the build up of plant gasses and the reduction of oxygen. Both these issues can be harmful to the any creatures living in the water including frogs. It’s a good idea to try and prevent the pond from freezing over completely by leaving an object, like a ball, floating on the surface. The movement of the ball disrupts the freezing process a little but won’t help much when temperatures really plunge below zero. It is possible to buy commercially manufactured pond heaters but it is important to select the correct unit and there are very real limitations regarding both the size of the pond and the wildlife’s perception of the temperature reality.
If your domestic pond has frozen over completely then it is widely agreed that the correct way to thaw a hole is to fill a saucepan with hot (but not scalding) water and then rest the saucepan on the ice. The process may need to be repeated several times. Special care should be observed when using hot water and it should not be poured directly onto the ice or into the pond water as the sudden temperature change can be harmful to the inhabitants of the pond. Overly hot water can also be a risk to you as you are likely to be carrying it in frozen and slippery conditions. Remember – safety first.
The greater size of large ponds and lakes means that there is usually sufficient water under the ice to avoid the problems mentioned earlier and therefore no real need to thaw holes.
Avoid breaking the ice with a hard object as this can send harmful shockwaves through the water.
3. TOADS & ROADS
Both frogs and toads migrate and often have to cross roads in the process. This causes the death of many of these creatures every year. More than 800 migratory road crossings have already been identified in the UK. Many of these are annually identified with a warning sign between January and April so that motorists can be made aware of the location and take sensible precautions to avoid harming these animals. You can help by registering any toad-crossings that are not already listed. The website www.froglife.org has an excellent set of pages and detailed information about Toads and Roads.
4. GO ORGANIC / AVOID POLLUTANTS
Frogs and toads are highly vulnerable to many pollutants, chemicals pesticides and waste toxins. Even substances that we may consider harmless can be damaging to these amphibians. Soap residue from car washing, old paint from leaking tins and chemicals used to clean paving are just a few examples of pollutants that can find their way into ground water and thus ponds. According to the experts, there are ways to control pests without resorting to chemicals. In fact, both frogs and hedgehogs are excellent at clearing a garden of slugs. Websites such as froglife.org and savethefrogs.com have a significant amount of information and advice that you may find useful. It’s best to learn about what frogs you may have in your vicinity and discover which substances are particularly harmful and should be avoided.
5. MAKE FENCE GAPS AND HOLES
Frogs and toads are very adept at finding their way into most places but it still helps if small six inch (15cm) gaps are made through or under the common garden fence. This makes it just that bit easier for amphibians of all types to find the habitats in your garden. This is particularly true of new estates where slatted wooden fences surround each property. The gaps are also very useful for hedgehogs.
6. INSECT LIGHTS
By placing small but moderately-bright low-level lights near toad and frog habitats you can be sure of attracting night flying insects. This will help provide a steady source of food for your amphibian friends and reduce the number of insects buzzing around. These lights – and one can be enough – should ideally be linked to a timer switch so that they are only active for a few hours of darkness each night. This ensures that other nocturnal creatures that might be disturbed by the light are not unduly effected. If locating them where animals of humans could come into contact with them – especially if they’re near a pond or other water source – it’s essential to use very low voltage for the safety of both the creatures you’re trying to help and other people who may come into contact with your insect attractor. Small solar powered lights tend to work quite well if the LED’s are bright enough.
7. SUPPORT THE PROTECTION OF WILD HABITATS
Rapid urban development during the 1960’s and an increase in the use of pesticides during the early 1900’s drastically reduced the natural habitats for many wild creatures. However, over the past decades many ponds have been filled in and both frogs and toads were hit particularly hard.
Frogs and toads share their habitats with many other creatures so any area such as greenbelt land, woods and hedgerows – that are near water – are potential habitats.
There are many ways to support the protection of wild habitats that range from actively campaigning to simply picking up the odd piece of litter. Regardless of what you choose to do remember that your safety must come first.
8. A PROTECT SPECIES
All amphibians in the UK have a measure of legal protection and it is not permitted to trade, barter or sell these creatures without a license. However, the rare Natterjack Toads have “special Protection” and it is illegal to harm these creatures or their habitats in any way. Given the rapid decline of frogs and toads and the destruction of their natural environment it is best to treat all frogs and toads as requiring special care.
9. DO NOT DISTURB
It may sound obvious but all forms of wildlife have their own patterns, behaviour and specialised habitats. This is always good advice. Whether they live in your garden or are in the wild it is best to avoid disturbing frogs and toads wherever possible.
10. LEARN AND SHARE
Frogs and toads are not creatures that we are used to seeing every day. As such, it’s not surprising that we don’t notice their absence. Unfortunately, given the trends in population numbers it’s likely that we will see even less of them. They’re also not the most loveable of creatures but by learning about frogs and toads and their importance in the eco-system it’s easy to realise their importance. By just sharing a little with friends and relatives it will help educate and inform people and every little bit of information and action helps.
YOUR SAFETY FIRST !
Your safety must always come first:
Some frogs and toads can be poisonous.
Frogs and toads often secrete toxins through their skin to deter predators.
Only ever handle frogs and toads if you are absolutely sure that it’s safe to do so.
If you have to handle a frog or toad you should wear gloves but please take care that the gloves do not have chemicals or irritants on them that might be harmful to the animal.
All animals have the capacity for carrying parasites or other diseases. Do research first to ensure your own health and safety.
Always wash your hands before and after handling frogs and toads – in particular avoid touching your eyes.
If you are unsure about your safety when dealing with an animal always first seek the advice of an expert