WHY did the frog cross the road? To meet the female in the pond at the other side.
Every year, thousands of frogs, toads and other amphibians come out of hibernation to make the same treacherous - and often fatal - journey across busy French roads in order to reproduce.
This year, the mild winter has meant that the animals, many of which are protected by law, started their migration earlier than normal.
Now, researchers in Bourgogne are asking for help cataloguing amorous amphibians that are risking their lives in search of love. They have asked anyone who spots an amphibian - dead or alive - on roads in the area to report it as soon as possible on the website www.bourgogne-nature.fr - which can be accessed by computer, smartphone or tablet.
Meanwhile, in Alsace, wildlife protection groups Nature Alsace and the League for the Protection of Birds, have teamed up to set up nets and fences at the side of roads to prevent the lovelorn animals crossing roads. Volunteers then carry the creatures safely across the roads - and back again a few days later.
In Picardie, volunteers built a 1km ‘dam’, with bucket traps to catch migrating frogs and toads. Each morning during the mating season the traps have been examined and any animals delivered safely to nearby ponds.
A similar ‘dam’ has been constructed between the villages of Germaine and Saint-Imoges in the Montagne de Reims Regional Natural Park. Officials there hope that volunteers will be able to join them to transport trapped amphibians to safety on March 19. Log on to www.parc-montagnedereims.fr for more information.
Officials in Hauts-de-Seine have gone one step further. To protect frogs and toads leaving Meudon Forest to breed, the National Forestry Board, local nature groups and the authorities in the town of Vélizy-Villacoublay closed a portion of a forest road to traffic until March 31.
Another closure - the third in as many years - is in place on the road leading to St Sernin du Bois, through the protected area of La Noue. It is closed to traffic every night between 6pm and 5am until April 15. A diversion is in place.
Although cars account for 30% of amphibian fatalities every year, they are not the only threat to France’s indigenous amphibian population. Wetland habitats are being drained, which is contributing to a rapid decline in numbers.
Photo: Bourgogne Nature