Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Amphibians’ Category

What’s Happening at Waterloo?

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

By Allegra Mitchell, CWF Biologist

 

Waterloo Village in Byram Township, Sussex County is more than a tourist attraction and local gem, it is also home to the largest cross-road amphibian migration in New Jersey. Each spring, frogs, toads, and salamanders stir from their hibernation to make their way to their breeding sites. Some of these sites, like the one at Waterloo, are vernal pools – small, temporary bodies of water that appear in early spring as snow melts and rain and groundwater gathers, and disappear throughout the summer as they evaporate. The ephemeral nature of these pools can’t support fish, which would prey on amphibian eggs and larvae. Vernal pools therefore provide some protection for amphibian offspring, with many species such as wood frogs and spotted and Jefferson salamanders – both of which are listed as New Jersey species of Special Concern – relying exclusively on these vernal pools for breeding.

 

 

The greatest challenge for amphibians breeding at Waterloo Historic Village is crossing Waterloo Road. Living in the most densely population state takes a toll on many species of wildlife in the form of habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. Each year, many amphibians become victim to vehicular collision as they move from their hibernation sites across Waterloo Road to the vernal pool in which they reproduce. Amphibians may be disproportionately affected by vehicle-caused road mortalities compared to other wildlife because of their tendency to migrate en masse to breeding sites. These annual road mortalities can have devastating effects on amphibian population sizes, especially for the local at-risk salamander populations. In fact, as little as about 10% annual risk of road mortality in spotted salamanders can lead to the local extinction of an entire population.

 

Wood Frog eggs. Photo courtesy of MacKenzie Hall.

To address this problem, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) and the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) organized amphibian rescue efforts. Since 2002, dedicated volunteers have assisted frogs, toads, and salamanders across Waterloo Road during the busiest migration nights. This aid has proven effective in reducing amphibian road mortalities, but it is not a permanent solution to the problem. Efforts are underway to construct under-road tunnels to help guide amphibians safely across Waterloo Road. These tunnels will provide safe passage for these critters throughout the breeding season, including on their migration back into the woods where they will hibernate. Since this return migration is more sporadic and less weather-dependent than migration to the vernal pool, it is much harder to protect amphibians as they make their way back to the forest.

 

 

This year, CWF scientists have begun the initial phases of research to understand current amphibian population sizes and the impact of vehicle traffic on these animals at Waterloo. Scientists and volunteers have been out 7 days a week since amphibian migrations began in late February to tally daily roadkill on Waterloo Road. This study will be used to evaluate changes to frog, toad, and salamander populations as the under-road amphibian tunnels are installed. CWF scientists have also conducted egg mass counts in the vernal pool at Waterloo Village to estimate the current population sizes of the different amphibian species in the area. Having this knowledge will allow CWF to improve on future projects to minimize road-related human-wildlife conflicts.

 

Spotted Salamander egg mass. Photo courtesy of MacKenzie Hall.

Along with improving conditions for amphibians in this location, CWF’s work at Waterloo Village will serve as an example of New Jersey statewide initiatives to reconnect wildlife habitat as a part of the Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ) program. The goal of CHANJ is to make our state landscapes more permeable to wildlife movement so that all of New Jersey’s residents – human and wildlife – will have the space they need to thrive.

 

In an effort to bring people and wildlife together in a positive way at Waterloo Village, CWF scientists are leading educational walks for the public and local schools. Through hands-on interaction, local residents can learn about and appreciate the remarkable wildlife right in their own back yards and what they can do to support conservation efforts.

 

All New Jerseyans can help wildlife this season by planting native plants for their gardens, building bat boxes where bats can roost, and, of course, by keeping an eye out on the roads, especially on warm, rainy nights when amphibians might be migrating.


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Allegra Mitchell is a biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

Tiger Salamander Season

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

Volunteers Survey For This Rare and Elusive NJ Salamander.

by: Larissa Smith, CWF Wildlife Biologist

Adult Tiger Salamander @ M. Tribulski

On a cold December evening I met up with ENSP biologists and dedicated Tiger Salamander project volunteers to survey for Eastern Tiger Salamanders. The group had been out surveying all day in Atlantic County without spotting any tiger salamanders and were cold but still raring to go. The pool we surveyed has been a successful tiger salamander breeding pool, within a complex of enhanced vernal pools. We weren’t disappointed as we quickly found adult salamanders in the pool and egg masses.

Another great find was a neotenic (gilled adult).  This was a larvae, most likely, from last season that didn’t metamorphose and still had external gills. It had not yet left the pool, whereas most larvae metamorphose and leave the pools in June to July of their hatching year.

Neotenic adult @ M. Tribulski

Surveying for TS@ M. Tribulski

We surveyed a second pool in the complex, but found no sign of adults or egg masses. We found fish in the pool, which is an indicator that there won’t be salamanders since the fish eat the eggs and larvae.

New Tiger Salamander breeding pools have been found by the TS volunteers, in Cape May and Cumberland Counties. It is encouraging to know that these salamanders continue to live and breed in New Jersey and that gives me hope for the future of all NJ wildlife.


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American Toad: Myths and Misconceptions

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
Learn the Facts about a Common New Jersey Amphibian

by Liam Hobbie, Field Intern

Adult American toad photo by Kelly Triece

Adult American toad photo by Kelly Triece

Did you know that wetlands are very important habitats that provide benefits for both humans and wildlife alike? Generally defined as “land consisting of marshes or swamps”, wetlands provide natural flood control by soaking up runoff from heavy rains and filter out chemicals, pollutants, and sediments that would otherwise contaminate our drinking water. They also provide a home for much of the fish and wildlife species that inhabit the state of New Jersey.

 

Due to the extensive development and urbanization of the state to accommodate our ever-growing population, much of New Jersey’s natural wetlands have ceased to exist. In the 1980’s a study conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) found that, since the mid-1900’s, the state lost at least 20 percent of its natural wetland resources. Since then, concerted efforts have been made to protect, restore, and create wetland habitats across the state. One such effort has been made by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) with the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) project, a component of The Agricultural Conservation Program in partnership with Conserve Wildlife Foundation. WRE is a voluntary program that provides an opportunity for landowners to receive financial assistance in exchange for permanently protecting retired agricultural land.

Lamington River, Bedminster, Somerset County. Location of American toads.

Lamington River, Bedminster, Somerset County. Location of American toads.

While walking one such easement property in Bedminster, Somerset County we observed a population of American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) polliwogs in a shallow water inlet along the Lamington River. There had to be hundreds of these young toads both in the water and on the shore. The American toad is just one example of a wildlife species that benefits from readily available wetland habitat and that is also vulnerable to habitat loss due to wetland destruction. Although they are very common in New Jersey, and many people can recognize a toad when they see one, there are still a handful of myths and misconceptions about toads that I would like to address.

American toad- just metamorphizing into an adult! Photo by Kelly Triece

American toad- just metamorphizing into an adult! Photo by Kelly Triece

Myth 1 – Toads will give you warts if you touch them: False. While toads do have warts across their bodies, they cannot transmit these warts to humans as warts in people are actually caused by a virus. This doesn’t mean you should go around handling every toad you come across, but if you do pick one up you will not contract warts from it.

 

Myth 2 – Toads must be completely safe to handle if they do not transmit warts: False. Toads secrete toxins through their skin so it is completely necessary to wash one’s hands after handling a toad. They also are known to pee in self-defense, especially when picked up by a human. This may not bother some people but you should still make sure to wash your hands after holding one.

 

Myth 3 – Wild-caught toads make good pets: False. While toads are very easy to care for, and it is not hard to replicate their natural environment in a fish tank, it is still very important to leave wild toads wherever you find them. Toads will spend their whole lives in one area, leaving it once or twice a year just to go breed, and it can be very disruptive to a toad’s well-being to find itself in a new home. If you do happen to keep a toad for more than a few minutes, it is of utmost importance that it gets returned to exactly where you found it. Releasing it into any suitable habitat would seem adequate enough, but it would be like if one day you just found yourself wandering around Nebraska with no way of knowing where to go or how to get home!

 

Myth 4 – Toads are terrestrial species and do not need to be near water to thrive: False. Toads will spend most of their lives hanging out in fields or meadows or even forests, but they do need access to pools of water in order to breed. Every summer, toads will migrate to pools to find mates and to lay eggs. While they do not swim, like their close relative the frog, they still benefit from having shallow water habitat in close proximity to where they spend most of their time.

 

Myth 5 – Toads are poisonous: TRUE. Contact with a toad’s skin will not give you warts and it will not poison you just through skin-to-skin contact. However, they have glands just behind their eyes that when pressed will secrete a milky-white substance that can severely harm someone if ingested. This may not be a danger to most people, as most humans have no interest in putting toads in their mouths, but it is a concern for dogs. Dogs very typically love to grab strange objects with their mouths, which applies enough pressure to a toad’s glands to excrete their poison. This can be very detrimental to a canine’s health and can even kill them. If you find yourself wandering around toad habitats with your beloved pup ensure that they do not try to eat any toads that they come across. If your dog does mistakenly poison itself you should take it to a vet immediately.

 

NRCS easement boundary sign.

NRCS easement boundary sign.

Through programs like WRE, more and more wetland habitats are being made available across the state for wildlife species like toads. It is important to be aware of what impact you can have on them, as well as what could happen to you or your pet through contact with toads.

 

Learn More:

 

Liam Hobbie is a 2016 field intern for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

“For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest: Third Place Winners

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
Congratulations, Edana Lobsco and Matthew Sullivan!

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

Earlier in 2016, Conserve Wildlife Foundation launched the “For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest. Our photography contest was meant to showcase the love for and need to protect the endangered and threatened wildlife that call New Jersey home. We encouraged youth and adult photographers across the Garden State to submit photographs in the following categories:

  • New Jersey’s Rarest Residents: Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern Wildlife Species Only
  • The Garden State: New Jersey Landscapes
  • Experiencing Nature: People Enjoying the Outdoors
  • Wild New Jersey: All Animals in the Garden State

We were blown away by the amount of submissions we received! Over 1,470 entries were counted! New Jersey wildlife photographers, CWF board members and staff poured over the entries to choose our winners. Today, we are thrilled to announce both third place winners.


Edana Lobosco: Youth Photographer
Highland Lakes, New Jersey
“Frog in Hands”

Youth Third Place Winner Edana Lobosco "Frog in Hands"

Youth Third Place Winner Edana Lobosco “Frog in Hands”

In an interview with CWF, Edana said, “Thank you so much for picking my photo and giving me a chance to show off my photography!! I took this photo on the Appalachian Trail in Vernon, New Jersey, my friend scooped him up and it was a perfect photo op! I’ve been taking nature photos since the first time I ever picked up a camera. It started with just my mom’s flowers in her garden, and now whenever I’m outside I never forget my camera. There’s so many beautiful creatures in New Jersey, I don’t know if I can choose a favorite! I love watching the painted turtles in my lake sunbathe, and I love the variety of wildflowers that grow around the Garden State!”


Matthew Sullivan: Adult Photographer
Lambertville, New Jersey
Northern Gray Treefrog

Third Place Winner Matthew Sullivan Northern Gray Treefrog

Third Place Winner Matthew Sullivan Northern Gray Treefrog

Matthew says, “Treefrog breeding season is one of my favorite times of year in New Jersey. I was out looking to get this shot of a Pine Barrens Treefrog instead, but none of the ones I found would call no matter how long I sat there. This gray treefrog though was more than willing to sing loudly for me, I just had to time it right and after a few tries, I got my shot. I’ve been seriously photographing nature for 6 or 7 years now, but have been outside looking for wildlife since I was old enough to walk. My personal favorite animals in New Jersey are the reptiles and amphibians, even more specifically, Pine Barrens Treefrogs, Timber Rattlesnakes, and Eastern Hognoses.”


Stay Tuned as we announce the second place winners of the “For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest over the next few days!

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey “2015 Annual Report” Released

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

CWF Releases its Second Annual Report Using a Story Map Format:

2015 Annual Report


Technology has proven to be vital to Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s work protecting rare wildlife species over the years. Our biologists depend greatly on modern technologies to band, track, and share online the journeys of wildlife. Our webcams broadcast the most intimate behaviors of nesting birds and bats across the web. And we seek out ever-evolving communications technologies to spread the word about the inspiring stories of wildlife, from social media and infographs to e-books and Story Maps. These technologies offer newfound abilities to share complex data on multiple levels, while still incorporating the awe-inspiring photography and videos that bring wildlife’s stories to life.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is excited to offer our 2015 Annual Report in a unique format that utilizes one of those technologies – Story Maps. In the past year, we have explored the lives of seals, eagles, and freshwater mussels with Story Maps – and the annual report allows all of our projects to be highlighted in this interactive format as well.

Visit the multiple pages within this Story Map to learn about Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s many projects and partnerships in 2015, and the imperiled wildlife species in need of our help. Find examples of the innovative and dedicated leadership of our biologists and volunteers. And take an online journey across the state to learn how our projects made a difference in all corners of New Jersey in 2015 – a great year for wildlife in the Garden State!


 

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