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9:47 am August 29th, 2013

They’re small enough to almost disappear in a human’s hand, but Western toads are a big deal at Northwest Trek.
In recent weeks, thousands of the tiny, fragile toads – each smaller than a pinkie fingernail – have been hopping out of a pond at the wildlife park and making their way into the forest to begin new lives in their annual migration..
The event is important to the long-term survival of the species, which is gratifying for Northwest Trek workers and volunteers who restore and maintain wetlands and wildlife habitat beneficial to the toads, said Jessica Moore, conservation program coordinator.
As few as a dozen or as many as 48 adult toads emerge from the forest and begin breeding in the pond in March or early April. Moore said their reproductive capability is amazing, as a single female can lay thousands of eggs. Tens of thousands of tadpoles eventually metamorphose into toadlets and begin their migration onto land.
Recently, they’ve huddled at the edge of the pond, piled on top of each other and swarming over logs and rocks as they prepared for the big move that many won’t all survive. Western toads, a species whose survival in Washington is a concern, face predators and perils as they make their way in a world of shrinking habitat, Moore noted.
The Northwest Trek pond, which isn’t part of the wildlife areas that the public can view, is one of the few Western toad breeding sites in Pierce County. It was enhanced for toad breeding through extensive restoration and a four-acre wetlands mitigation project, Moore said. The toads now are breeding at two locations on the property.
Conservation and wildlife prservatiion are a mission of Northwest Trek. The 725-acre reserve near Eatonville is operated by Metro Parks Tacoma.

Western toads migrating at Northwest Trek start their journey as toadlets – so small they're virtually swallowed in a human hand. (Jim Bryant/The Dispatch)

Western toads migrating at Northwest Trek start their journey as toadlets – so small they’re virtually swallowed in a human hand. (Jim Bryant/The Dispatch)

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