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May 6

Davis, California

Davis Toad Tunnel

Special tunnels built so that frogs won't be killed when crossing the highway 

A $14,000 wildlife crossing was constructed in 1995 as a six-inch tunnel to allow frogs (not toads, despite the project’s name) to circumvent the newly constructed Pole Line Road overpass. The postmaster decorated the entrance to the tunnel near the Post Office to resemble a toad town, named Toad Hollow, complete with a toad bar, toad outhouse, and a toad hotel. In late 1999, the walkway at the northeast entrance to the Davis Food Co-op on G Street was named “Toad Lane” by the city council in honor of the tunnel. In January 2000, the children’s book, “The Toads of Davis,” written and illustrated by Ted Puntillo, Sr., was published to tell the story of the Davis Toad Tunnel through the eyes of the toads.

Rumor suggests that the frogs originally refused to use the tunnel, so lights were installed to encourage them. The frogs then died from the heat of the lamps inside the tunnel. Once through the tunnel, the frogs then also had to battle with birds who quickly learned of the frog-producing hole in the ground.

The project received national attention, including a feature on “The Daily Show” in 1998. Also in 1998, a Florida State University professor received a $40,000 grant to research whether and how frogs would be able to utilize a proposed tunnel under the US 319 highway outside of Tallahassee. As quoted in Forbes, this study research seemed to be inspired by Davis’ experience: “Best to plan ahead with this sort of thing.... Partansky (Davis’ mayor at the time of the Toad Tunnel construction) suggests that anyone else who builds a tunnel somehow simulate starlight in the passage to help lure the animals through.”

Know Before You Go

Take the I-80 Richards Blvd exit and head east. Turn left at Pole Line Ave. Tunnel runs beneath Pole Line Road overpass.

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