Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: You can’t lead a toad to tunnels …

By From page A2 | March 27, 2013

Weird things seem to come in bunches, don’t they? I have no idea why this is, but I’ve noticed it often enough that I don’t question it any more.

Today’s weird thing that happens in bunches concerns toads, something most Davisites are extra-familiar with.

My oldest son, Ted, who grew up in Davis and has had to explain our famous Toad Tunnel to outsiders a million times, is about to move into a new home in Half Moon Bay with his wife, Angela, and their three young boys.

The back yard of their home backs into a creek, which, according to my son, “is habitat for a rare species of three-legged frog or burrowing toad” or some sort of pigeon-toed salamander. You may be able to guess the rest.

Adds Ted: “There is an EPA-mandated ‘riparian easement,’ to wit: a ground-level hole is built into our backyard fence to allow these creatures a right of way. We have a toad tunnel.”

Seems only fitting for a kid from Davis.

At the same time Ted was informing me of his very own personal toad tunnel, a kind reader sent me a piece from the BBC News that was headlined: “Toad tunnel: Llandrindod Wells road shuts for mating.”

Sound familiar?

“You could call them the Powys toad tunnels of love, but sadly the amorous amphibians have decided to ignore them.”

Shades of our very own Toad Tunnel, which was built with the best of loving intentions during the recent reign of the dearly departed Julie Partansky.

For newcomers to town, the Toad Tunnel, which is commemorated at the southwesternmost exit to the post office at Fifth and Pole Line, runs under the roadway, allegedly to help boy toads visit girl toads on Valentine’s Day without getting squished by patrons of the nearby beer emporium, Sudwerk.

When the project was completed and word spread far and wide that no toad had ever used the tunnel, the “Daily Show” sent reporter Steven Colbert to our fair city to investigate. Colbert’s report put us on the map all right, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of map Davisites like to hear about.

Colbert, who has gone on to bigger and better things, may wish to take a look at the toad tunnel of Llandrindod in Wales if he ever runs up against another slow news day.

According to the BBC: “The two special tunnels were built three years ago to help the toads move in safety from woods to their breeding ground at Llandrindod Wells Lake.”

Exactly what we were told before the city committed considerable funds to provide secure underground passage for breeding toads. The ultimate in safe sex.

Adds the BBC, despite the two tunnels, the ungrateful toads “still use the road during mating season and they risk getting squashed. Now the road will instead close at night for three weeks to allow the toads to migrate.”

A less costly option, to be sure.

According to Julian Jones, director of the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, the tunnels have not worked despite the best of intentions.

“The problem,” said Jones, “is there’s quite a big road round the lake and for a 300-meter section, the toads are tumbling out of the woods to try to get to the lake. Powys Council did their best to try to funnel the toads to the tunnels with the ditches, but the toads would just get stuck in there. To be honest, I’ve never seen a toad in the tunnels.”

Julian Jones, meet Steven Colbert. Powys Council, meet the Davis City Council. We are all joined by our love for toads and our absolute inability to keep them from getting squished and squashed in their headlong rush to make even more toads.

I think I see a budding sister city relationship in the making.

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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