Of all wildlife crossings man constructed to minimize human-wildlife conflict, one which caught more attention of the humans and media than that of the animals they were intended for, is located in the city of Davis, in California.
It’s a Toad Tunnel that runs beneath the Pole Line Road overpass near the Davis Post Office, just north of Interstate-80. The entrance to the tunnel looks like a typical drainage pipe. An abstract toad sculpture with a flat, lid-like head stands to one side to indicate it is not. The tunnel is nearly two feet wide with little crossbars at the entrance to prevent anything larger than a toad from entering and blocking the route. Across the highway, is the exit, which is decorated with a couple of toy houses and toad sculptures to resemble a miniature town. Officially, the town is called “Toad Hollow”.
“Toad Hollow” at the exit of the Toad Tunnel. Photo credit
The Toad Tunnel was built in 1995 to allow toads, as well as frogs, to cross the newly built highway which runs right across their usual route to the wetlands. Before the new six-lane highway cut them off from the wetlands, the toads hopped across a dirt road without mishap. When the highway was being built, a controversy regarding the safety of the toads ensued and wildlife fans demanded a solution. Finally, Davis mayor Julie Partansky decided to allocate a fund of $14,000 for the construction of the Toad Tunnel.
Unfortunately, the Toad Tunnel was a spectacular failure. The toads refused to use the tunnel, and who would? If I were a toad, I would be wary of entering a dark tunnel with no idea where it would lead to. So to attract the toads, the tunnel was electrically lit. But then the toads started dying from heat of the lamps inside the tunnel. Those who survived the journey got picked up by birds who waited at the exit to greet them. Eventually, the toads went back to crossing the highway where they continue to get squished by passing cars.
Also see: The Nutty Narrows Bridge
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