Summit Lake toads to be featured in Wilderness Committee film
Filmmakers producing a documentary called Toad People were in the area April 21-25 filming the Summit Lake western toads and the local people endeavouring to protect them.
Co-directors Isabelle Groc and Mike McKinlay are producing the 30- to 40-minute film for the Wilderness Committee. They hope to have it completed by fall, and to take it on a tour that will include Nakusp.
“Toad People is about people involved in saving species at risk in their own backyard,” said Groc. “The film is about species at risk in general, but toads are our thread, our champion species throughout the film.”
Three years ago, Groc met a group of people in the Chilliwack area trying to save toads from being crushed to death while migrating across a busy road. The Chilliwack group organized detours, educated local residents about toads, and last year, built a toad tunnel. This passionate group inspired the film.
“Then we realized there were similar initiatives around BC, on Vancouver Island, where they have moved toadlets across the road in buckets, and in Whistler where they are trying to protect one of the last populations there,” said Groc. “And then we heard about Summit Lake and we knew we had to include it in our film.”
Summit Lake is important, as it is one of the largest western toad breeding sites in BC. Recently, local people tried to stop logging in the toads’ core terrestrial habitat in the forest across the highway from the lake. For the past several years, efforts have been made to save the Summit Lake toads from highway mortality by installing culverts and a tunnel, and bucketing them across the highway at the annual Toadfest event.
Groc says that while they were here, she and McKinlay met with Jakob Dulisse, local biologist who has been studying the western toads at Summit Lake since 2010. They met with wildlife biologist Wayne McCrory at Fish Lake, where he is studying the toad population, and with Grant Trower, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program board member, at Duncan Dam. “Grant helped us understand the impacts of the dams and the resulting loss of habitat for toads and other species at risk, and how important it is to protect what’s left,” she said.
They also spoke with several citizens involved in the logging protest. “We had very little time, but we met a group of very warm and wonderful people who are incredibly passionate about toads. It was fantastic!”
In her position as species at risk project coordinator at the Wilderness Committee for the past six years, Groc has produced nine five-minute films with McKinlay, each on a different species.
“BC doesn’t have any species at risk legislation and we want to change that,” she said. “We’ve found it effective to connect people with species at risk visually, through our films.”