What Kind of Jerk Steals Supplies From Philly’s Loyal Toad-Savers?

Toad Detour volunteers depend on their safety vests and flashlights to, yep, help toads cross a street in Roxborough every spring and summer. But someone has stolen them.

toad detour schuylkill center

Toad Detour volunteers say someone broke into their supply shed and stole their safety vests and flashlights. | Photos via the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

I spent a balmy Friday evening last June helping toads cross a Philadelphia road, and it was one of my favorite experiences to date.

I’m not joking. Toad Detours, which are held frequently every spring and summer by the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, are wonderful. During the “detours,” volunteers like me spend several evening hours (the journey begins around sundown) transporting toads across a street that separates two reservoirs where the toads meet, get it on, lay eggs, hatch from those eggs, and do it all over again.

Sounds great, right? A noble cause, and simple enough. A lovely way to spend your time, do some good, save some little lives.

So now I’m sitting here racking my brain, trying to figure out what on earth would compel someone to break into the supply shed for the Toad Detours and steal all of the volunteers’ vests and flashlights, which is, evidently, what happened on Sunday night.

“What someone would do with 50 vests, I don’t know,” Schuylkill Center volunteer coordinator Claire Morgan said. “It’s a shame. I probably will never understand it.”

Toad Detours volunteers rely on the flashlights and vests to spots toads in the darkness and keep themselves visible to any drivers who might pass slowly along Hagys Mill Road and Port Royal Avenue in Roxborough, where they shuffle along looking for amphibians to assist on their journey to the Roxborough Reservoir. Adult toads make the migration to the water in early spring, generally around March or April, and toadlets journey back across the road later in the summer, around mid-May to late June. Volunteers like Morgan gather at the intersection almost nightly during those months to keep a lookout for upticks in toad activity — like they saw this week.

On Monday night, Toad Detour volunteers saw the largest toad migration yet this spring — more than 250 toads between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. The warm weather and recent rain brought the toads out, Morgan said, as well as a slew of volunteers (myself and more than a dozen Girl Scouts included) who wanted to help out after hearing about the shed burglary.

“We’ve had an outpouring of people,” Morgan said. “When I put what happened on Facebook, people were like, ‘What can I do to help?’ Someone ordered vests, and someone said, ‘I’ll drop off some flashlights.’ People have to been wonderful responding to what could be devastating to a great program.”

Morgan said it’s likely that the Schuylkill Center will raise the roughly $1,000 it needs after the break-in to fix the shed and replenish supplies. Anyone looking to donate to the organization can do so via its Facebook page or website.

The center is also scheduled to host a “Toad Night” between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on April 12th. For $15 (or $10 for members), visitors can see the American toad up close and learn about its history and the work the Schuylkill Center does to help protect its population — plus take a short hike.

Morgan said she reported the incident to police but has yet to receive any updates. In the meantime, Toad Detours are “gonna go business as usual.”

“We’re not going to let this hold us back,” she said.