Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Amphibians’ Category

That’s a Wrap for the Pilot Season of a New Collaborative Project with NJDEP Focusing on Pine Barrens Tree Frogs

Friday, August 12th, 2022

by Christine Healy

CWF intern Connor Zrinko inspects a large tadpole he collected while dipnetting.

At quick glance, Pine Barrens tree frogs (PBTF), with their vivid green backs, deep purple sides, and vibrant yellow thighs, might put folks in mind of Central and South American rainforests. Based on their visage, they could, theoretically, be at home beside red-eyed tree frogs and poison arrow frogs – the poster children of amphibian diversity. They have occupied that spotlight themselves. In fact, in his 1983 Endangered Species series, American pop artist Andy Warhol chose to immortalize the PBTF in silkscreen as the lone representative of herptiles. But these tiny beauties do not favor the tropics. Occurring in three disjunct populations across the eastern United States including the Florida/Alabama panhandle, the Carolinas and, naturally, New Jersey, PBTF are habitat specialists. They reside in seepage bogs where the water is relatively acidic, due to the presiding vegetation. Sadly, as is the case with many animals reliant on very specific landscape features, habitat loss and fragmentation pose a concern for the persistence of this species, which is listed as threatened in New Jersey.

CWF is very excited to be partnering with NJDEP, Division of Watershed Protection and Restoration on a long-term study aimed at better understanding the effect of development on vulnerable species. We will measure abundance, adult health and survival, and larval growth of Pine Barrens tree frogs within a population impacted by encroaching construction to evaluate whether current wetland regulations, including buffer size, are sufficient for species conservation.

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2022 Amphibian Crossing Season Update

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

Jefferson Salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum)

Rainy nights with evening temperatures edging into the mid-40s or above. Seems easy to plan for rescue nights, doesn’t it? Certainly not this year!

CWF’s Amphibian Crossing Project targets the earliest breeders in northern New Jersey, including wood frogs, spotted salamanders, and Jefferson salamanders. These vernal pool obligates must find their way from forested winter habitat to ephemeral wetlands each spring in order to successfully reproduce. Snowmelt and warm, moist air signal individuals to resume activity after a long winter’s brumation (hibernation for ectothermic “cold-blooded” animals) underground. As soon as they emerge, they head to the pools which, in our increasingly fragmented world, often means entering into a real-world game of Frogger. The stakes are incredibly high and many do not make it out alive.

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

To combat this problem, our team of devoted volunteers has been braving the elements for the last 20 years, ferrying slow moving amphibians across busy roadways during the earliest wave of the annual migration. Their efforts not only increase survivorship and breeding potential, but also raises awareness and contributes valuable data to justify the construction of long-term solutions. This season, 103 participants were involved in the project, working across three CWF managed roads in Byram, Liberty, and Hampton Twps. and one site in Hardwick Twp. organized by Blaine Rothauser, a senior ecologist for GZA GeoEnvironmental and Dennis Briede, stewardship manager at the Land Conservancy of New Jersey. All together, we assisted with the movement of 2,456 amphibians of 9 species, 26% of which represented species of concern.

Without a doubt, these numbers are impressive, however, I can’t help but reflect on this season with agitation. Late February and March featured dramatic temperature swings, characterized by sunny days in the 70s followed by cold snaps with snow and ice. Freezing conditions can damage amphibian egg masses and fluctuating weather may punctuate and elongate the migration, making movement difficult to predict. Lightning storms and heavy wind kept us off the roads during a few of the seasons peak nights, though based on the results of morning mortality surveys, the same cannot be said for drivers…

While amphibian rescue events do localized communities a lot of good, seasons like this one really highlight the need to remove a dependence on humans from the survival equation, especially as global climate change continues to cause deviations from “normal”. We’re anticipating the first frog/salamander-specific wildlife passage in NJ to break ground at our Byram Twp. site in the summer of 2023, after years of planning by the Endangered and Nongame Species program and many partners.

We can’t wait to see the impact this project has on the population of amphibians reliant on New Jersey’s largest vernal pool and how it inspires similar projects in the future.  

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)

Uncovering Urban Reptile and Amphibian Diversity

Monday, November 8th, 2021

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

Coverboards are typically placed along ecotones, where species diversity is expected to be greatest. The corrugated tin board, pictured above, was positioned along a forest edge where larger deciduous trees meet a more open, sandy landscape.

How do you survey for animals that spend most of their time hidden under leaf litter or wedged between fallen tree limbs and rocks?

In the case of reptiles and amphibians, the answer is to use coverboards!

Coverboards are materials that are intentionally placed within a potential habitat, often along ecotones (where different habitat types- e.g., wetland and forest, field and forest, etc. come together) that trap moisture and retain heat, creating favorable conditions for our “cold-blooded” (ectothermic) friends. Researchers often arrange coverboards in long transects or arrays and collect data on the diversity of the community underneath the boards as compared to the surrounding environment. This technique was used by NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife to survey for herptiles in 17 wildlife management areas in the early 2000s (Golden, 2004). A total of 30 species were recorded during the first year of the study, including long-tailed salamanders, pine barrens tree frogs, and northern pine snakes, all of which are listed as threatened in New Jersey.   

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Sipping for Salamanders

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

Trivia winners “Team Bobcat” pose with their handmade wooden salamander medallions.
(Left to right: Diane Reid, Amy Greene, Brian Haggerty, Janice Haggerty, and MacKenzie Hall)
The words referring to
1. The most elusive groups of amphibians
AND
2. Residents of Italy’s largest island
are actually homophones

What are they called?

If you guessed caecilians, you’d have done well at CWF’s recent trivia night- an event celebrating and supporting the Amphibian Crossing Project, held in partnership with Jersey Girl Brewing Company in Hackettstown.

We were overwhelmed by the support that we received from volunteers, board members, friends of the organization- both old and new, and of course the Jersey Girl team. Participants answered questions from a broad range of categories while enjoying homemade cookies shaped like salamanders, tortoises, and New Jersey, with a few Loch Ness Monsters thrown in for luck (she’s possibly a long-necked newt, after all) and sandwiches provided by Jersey Mike’s in Hackettstown. All contestants put up an impressive showing, but with a perfect score it was Team Bobcat that took home the amphibian medallions.

The Amphibian Crossing Project reached an important milestone in 2021, as this spring marked ten years of organized rescue nights on Waterloo Road, in Byram Township. Each season, participants brave cold and rainy conditions to help an average of 1,860 animals complete their annual migration from the upland forest in Allamuchy Mountain State Park to their breeding grounds in New Jersey’s largest vernal pool. While staff and volunteers took care to maintain social distancing as a COVID-19 precaution, the frogs, toads, and salamanders certainly did not; at 4,046 successful crossings, numbers more than doubled this year.

Waterloo will experience another milestone in 2022, as the installation of a specially designed amphibian passage system will provide migrators with a safe subterranean route, negating the need for human interference after next season.  While spring will feel rather different without a patrol of Waterloo involved, it is very exciting to watch this project become even more of a conservation success story and we can’t wait to see where the crossing goes from here.

Please consider making a contribution to support our work by clicking the button below and noting the “Amphibian Crossing Project.”


CWF in the News: Volunteers help salamanders cross NJ roadways

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

by Ethan Gilardi, Wildlife Biologist

https://i0.wp.com/www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2021/03/19/NNJH/8d71f555-3ccd-4e67-b853-b91ad51421f9-Spotted-Female_In-Hand_MacKenzieHall.jpg?ssl=1
A volunteers handles a spotted salamander. Photo by Mackenzie Hall

The Conserve Wildlife Foundation has been partnering with NJ’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) since 2002 for the annual Amphibian Crossing Project. On warm, rainy nights in the early Spring, we work with a fleet of incredible volunteers to hustle amphibians across the road at three key rescue sites. Still groggy from their winter hibernation, roads can be incredibly dangerous for the slow moving frogs and salamanders trying to reach their breeding grounds.

Over the course of this project, we’ve crossed an estimate 14,000 individuals at the Byram Township site alone!

Commenting on last Thursday’s crossing, the first of 2021, Amphibian Crossing Project Coordinator Christine Healy had the following to say:

“We were a little unsure of what to expect, since the temperature was a little on the cold side, but we crossed 1,215 amphibians at Byram Twp., 1,132 at Stillwater, and 963 at Liberty Twp.

I’d call that a success! Really proud of all the volunteers who made it happen.

Conditions look like they could be good toward the end of this week for round two!”

Christine Healy, Amphibian Crossing Project Coordinator

Bruce A. Scruton of The New Jersey Herald recently spoke with Christine to discuss the Amphibian Croosing Project and its storied history.

You can read the profile over on NJHerald.com to learn more about what it takes to help hundreds of our amphibian friends hop and meander across dangerous roadways.

Click here to read more.

Spotted salamander on a log
A spotted salamander peeks over a log. Photo by Mackenzie Hall.