SLIPPERY and slimy toads have found a warm place in our hearts thanks to Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel The Wind in the Willows.
Now volunteers across the county have taken extra steps to make sure that toads travel safe and sound to their breeding ground.
The Oxford Toad Patrol in New Hinksey is made of up of six determined volunteers who set out from sunset to save the toads.
Organised by the charity Froglife, the volunteers work in a two-month window while the creatures are breeding.
Ecologist Laura Jennings has saved more than 12 toads this year.
Ms Jennings, 29 has been rescuing toads, frogs and newts and taking them to the pond on Lake Street.
She said: “From sunset to late evening, we walk down the street with a torch looking for frogs, toads and newts on the road.
“Sometimes the creatures walk straight down the middle of the street and get hit by cars. We pick them up from pavements and drains as well. Last year the season was really late, but this year in mid February we have had toads and frogs on the move.”
In 2013 the New Hinksey Toad Patrol saved 146 toads, 205 frogs and two newts.
Ms Jennings said: “They are quite vulnerable when they move from the gardens to the street; 75 per cent of toads will breed back in the place where they were born. “The toads make a beeline for the pond. They are not used to cars at all, and so anything we can do to help boost their numbers is great.
“Quite often if we have picked up a couple of toads, they will start mating when they are in the bucket.”
There are 11 toad patrols working across Oxfordshire in New Hinksey, North Hinksey Lane, Iffley, Linkside Avenue, Bagley Wood, Springwell Hill, Wootton by Woodstock, Berrick Salome, Fawler and Pooles Lane/Fishers Lane in Charlbury.
The toad patrol in Henley rescued more than 7,000 toads in 2012 and 6,134 toads last year in their annual search.