Phase One of the Pacific Traverse Trail (PTT) kicked off early this February, beginning with the 7 km long section between Radar Hill and Incinerator Rock (Long Beach). For those who are not up to speed on the project, the PTT is a new multi-use trail that aims to link the communities of Ucluelet and Tofino together while enabling access to the pre-existing hiking trails and beaches within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (PRNPR).

As the trail traverses the park it crosses over a range of ecosystems that provide habitat for a number of species. In order to mitigate the impacts on wildlife the trail has been designed with best known environmental management practices. The path layout avoids areas of special concern, such as wildlife corridors and critical habitat for species at risk; in many cases the trail has been diverted towards the highway in order to avoid these areas.

PRNPR contains essential habitat for a number of amphibian species; many of which are listed by COSEWIC as species of special concern.  It may surprise you to learn that within this small section of land, there are nine different native species of amphibian. To break that down in a digestible form there are three categories: amphibians without tails, terrestrial-breeding salamanders, and lentic (aquatic)-breeding amphibians. The first group includes the Northern Pacific Treefrog, Western Toad and Northern Red-legged. The second group contains the Western Redback Salamander, Ensatina and Wandering. The last group contains the Northwestern Salamander, Long-toed Salamander and Roughskin Newt. Now that we have our heads wrapped around those nine, we will incorporate the jumping-slugs. Perhaps you have heard of a jumping-slug, but did you know that there are two COSEWIC-listed species on Vancouver Island? Both the Warty Jumping-slug and the Dromedary Jumping-slug are found on the island, but only the latter has been found in PRNPR. Although it is incredibly rare to find one, you can view videos of them online demonstrating their “jumping” self-defence dance that earned them their name.

Pacific tree frog egg mass. Photo provided by Caitlin O'neil.

Amphibian populations are threatened worldwide for a variety of reasons including: habitat loss, climate change, invasive species, roads and vehicles, as well as pollution and disease. Jumping-slug populations are suffering in part as a result of habitat loss and degradation. Due to these threats it is especially important to reduce harm to these already vulnerable animals during construction of the path.

Central Westcoast Forest Society teamed up with PRNPR, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations and Current Environmental Consulting to do amphibian salvaging before the clearing of the trail. Efforts were made to capture and relocate species before machinery moved through to construct the path. As some species are more active at night, salvaging efforts occurred both day and night; this could explain any people you may have sighted in February walking in the woods with flashlights near Radar Hill. As a result of this project, many individuals were relocated and new knowledge was acquired about amphibian habitat in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.