Gully pots are necessary for road drainage and flood prevention. They can, however, be death traps for amphibians. Each year large numbers of amphibians, both adults and juveniles, fall into gully pots and die through starvation or by drowning in the drainage system.
Toads are the most vulnerable species to be trapped in gully pots because of their ecology. Toads emerge from hibernation in spring (late March; if mild winter even February) and migrate to breeding sites that can be located more than 1 km away. Toads use a large single breeding pond. This means that the whole population can have to cross the road at a single point, in order to get to the pond. Toads do not necessarily migrate along natural cover such as hedgerows or rough grassland, but they will follow kerb lines and crawl over numerous roadside drains.
A 2012 study in The Netherlands collected 782 vertebrates from 526 gully pots. An estimated calculation suggested that between several hundred thousand to more than half a million animals die each year in The Netherlands. A similar project was undertaken in Perth & Kinross, Scotland. Surveys from 2010 to 2012 showed that the total number of trapped animals would be approximately 47,000 across Perth & Kinross per year. Majority of these would be toads but also frogs, newts and small mammals.
Warwickshire Amphibian and Reptile Team discovered an amphibian road crossing site in Balsall Common where many amphibians are trapped each spring during the breeding season. Open structured fabric amphibian ladders were installed in approximately 30 gully pots to help amphibians to climb out of the drain. Additionally regular surveys by volunteers were carried out to save any amphibians that were not able to escape through the ladder.
Two more sites were recently discovered in Warwickshire and require urgent action.
You can help to save animals lives by:
- Sending records to firstname.lastname@example.org if you spotted a toad road crossing site or dead/alive amphibian. We need species name, who recorded, where and when an animal was spotted;
- checking gully pots in your local area;
- sharing this information with your friends and family.