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More than one million animals are killed on GTA roads annually. This species is the most at-risk

An animal crossing street sign can be seen above. (Sheila Fitzgerald/Dreamstime) An animal crossing street sign can be seen above. (Sheila Fitzgerald/Dreamstime)

As many as one million animals are killed on roads in the Greater Toronto Area each year, according to a new study conducted by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and the University of Toronto.

Nicole Regimbal, an undergraduate student studying ecology and evolutionary biology, recently analyzed the data, gathered over two decades at 23 locations across the GTA, alongside researchers from the TRCA Jonathan Ruppert and Andrew Chin.

They found that of all creatures, amphibians — toads, frogs and salamanders, among others — are dying at a “disproportionately higher” rate in study areas — specifically, the American Toad, Green Frog, Grey Treefrog and Northern Leopard Frog.

The study said these frogs are more vulnerable because they’re slow moving, cross roads frequently and being cold-blooded, they’re attracted to warm roads.

“While it is a problem year-round, we do see a big spike [in deaths] during breeding season when they’re changing habitats and transitioning more towards wetlands areas,” Regimbal told NEWSTALK1010's Moore in the Morning on Tuesday.

The problem reaches further than the GTA too — Regimbal said amphibians are experiencing a global population decline and road mortality is one of the biggest contributors.

So, what can we do to prevent amphibians from being squished on roadways? Regimbal points to eco-roadways. An eco-roadway, also known as a green highway, is a passage built under or over a road through which small animals can pass safely.

“They’re really effective at preventing mortality,” she said.

She also said certain busier roads should be closed during breeding seasons — the duration of the closures would depend on the species.

“I know that there are seasonal closures [in Ontario] for the Jefferson Salamandar,” Regimbal said, referring to 2017 road closures in Burlington, Ont. that gave the endangered amphibian the chance to cross the road safely.

When reached for comment, the City of Toronto told CTV News Toronto they’ve put in place climate-conscious standards for future construction projects, which they say will “improve the city's resilience to climate change and benefit wildlife.”

Some examples of infrastructure included in these standards are street trees in stormwater tree trenches, bioretention systems such as curb extensions, bioretention planters and raingardens, and permeable pavements, among others.

While acknowledging there is much work to do in this field of conservation, Regimbal said this study serves as a ”first step.”

“The study on frog mortality was very fulfilling and personally solidified my desire to pursue a career in research,” she said. “I sometimes find myself overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems we face. But this work felt meaningful as a first step to implementing measures that can have very positive impacts.

After she graduates, she plans to continue her work protecting some of Ontario’s smallest critters.

“It was comforting to feel like I contributed to making a positive mark on the world – regardless of the scale.” Top Stories

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