Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Amphibian Crossing Project’

Amphibian Crossing Project on PBS EcoSense for Living

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

Wildlife habitats all over the country have been broken into ever smaller pieces by human development, making it challenging for animals to safely find food, mates or a place to make a nest or den. This is especially true in New Jersey, which has more people per square mile than any other state by far.

The PBS EcoSense for Living episode ”Wildlife Crossings” has captured the challenges habitat fragmentation poses to wildlife, along with the amazing work that scientists, engineers, and wildlife managers are doing to help. Projects supporting New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ) initiative, including CWF’s Amphibian Crossing Project, are featured beginning at 14:10.

On warm, rainy spring evenings salamanders, frogs and toads venture out for the most eventful nights of their year. They have but one goal – to make it to a vernal pool to breed. But between them and the pool is a road, filled with cars barreling along, completely oblivious to their big plans.

A single vehicle can crush dozens of these slow-moving animals as they try to make it across the road. From the driver’s seat they may look like mere twigs, leaves, or raindrops bouncing off the road. With high mortality rates year after year, it doesn’t take long for a population to nose-dive.

The Amphibian Crossing Program helps hundreds of salamanders, frogs and toads make that hazardous journey so they can have their big night. We are also assisting NJDFW in preparing for a wildlife crossing structure system consisting of under-road tunnels and guide fencing to help amphibians at our busiest migration site.

Successful “critter crossings” at this priority site could pave the way for many other projects, allowing salamanders, frogs, and toads (as well as snakes, turtles, and other small animals) to safely and independently cross between their upland habitats and breeding pools each spring. To see how the Amphibian Crossing Project fits in with other statewide projects supporting wildlife habitat connectivity see Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ).

Want to help? Volunteers for the Amphibian Crossing Project must complete a training session. If you are interested in being a part of next year’s project, please contact allegra.mitchell@conservewildlifenj.org.

Resources

Wild for Volunteers Guest Post: Amphibian Crossing

Friday, April 24th, 2020

by Annabel Weiman

About the author: Annabel is a sophomore at Indian Hills High School in Oakland, New Jersey. When not helping amphibians cross the road she enjoys photography, the beach and badminton. Thank you for volunteering and sharing your experience Annabel!

Please note: the Amphibian Crossing Project activity described here occurred before restrictions for COVID-19 were in place. At this time CWF is only performing essential wildlife monitoring and conservation duties while practicing social distancing and following all state and CDC guidelines.

In early March, my dad Rick got an email from wildlife biologist Allegra Mitchell of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ (CWF) saying tonight was the night. My dad came home from work excited, got the flashlights and rain coats out, and called my Aunt June and cousin Sarah asking if they wanted to go with us. We had all signed up to be CWF amphibian crossing volunteers. 

Helping a Spotted Salamander cross the road.
(more…)

The Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog – Uncovering the past

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

by Taylor Forster, GIS Intern

©Brian R.Curry

On a Tuesday morning, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey biologist Allegra Mitchell and I, GIS Intern Taylor Forster, went to the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton. We were looking at a newly identified species recently found in one of the largest metropolitan areas – New York! I learned that this species was discovered because of its unique “call.” A “call” is the sound a male frog makes to attract a female frog, and each frog species’ call is unique. It seems that this species remained undiscovered for so long because of its similar appearance to other, closely-related leopard frog species. The cryptic nature of this new species meant that the only noticeable distinction between it and other leopard frogs was the sound it makes.

After looking at this newly discovered frog, now known as the mid-Atlantic coast leopard frog, a few defining characteristics came to light that set it apart from the other leopard frogs. These characteristics make it easier to identify other mid-Atlantic coast leopard frogs that have been preserved and categorized as other species for museum collections. With this information in mind, Ms. Mitchell and I were at the New Jersey State Museum to investigate when and where this frog had been found throughout the state before anyone realized its significance. (more…)

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.


LEARN MORE


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

 

Connecting Habitat: Waterloo Road

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016
Conserve Wildlife Foundation Releases New Amphibian Crossing Story Map

by Kelly Triece, Wildlife Biologist

Spotted Salamander Crosses a busy road to reach a nearby breeding pool. Photo by Kelly Triece

Farewell to May — also known as Wetlands Month! As a final ode to Wetlands Month, Conserve Wildlife Foundation would like to share a story about a very special wetland! Please check out our latest Story Map: “Connecting Habitat: Waterloo Road.” This story map shares the story about a vernal pool wetland that is located at Waterloo Village History Site in Byram Township, Sussex County, New Jersey.

WaterlooRoadStoryMapScreenshot

This vernal pool wetland, as depicted in the Story Map, is a breeding ground for thousands of amphibians. However, each spring these amphibians must cross the heavily trafficked Waterloo Road in order to reach the pool. A single vehicle can crush dozens of the slow-moving animals as they try to cross the road during migration. High enough traffic volumes can wipe out entire populations over time.

 

Since 2002, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has worked to protect early-spring breeding amphibians like the wood frog, spotted salamander, Jefferson salamander, and spring peeper during their annual migrations through the Amphibian Crossing Project. On peak nights each spring, we work with a fleet of incredible volunteers to hustle amphibians across the road at rescue sites, collect data on the numbers and species seen, measure the impacts of vehicular traffic, and document additional amphibian crossings for future protection.

 

This is our 2016 Waterloo Road Amphibian Crossing Report:

  • Spotted Salamander: 334
  • Jefferson Salamander: 147
  • Wood Frog: 215
  • Spring Peeper: 255
  • American Toad: 479
  • Pickerel Frog: 2
  • TOTAL Amphibians: 1,432

 

The Amphibian Crossing Project aims to secure funding for amphibian crossing tunnels at Waterloo Road. This project is part of a larger effort led by the Division of Fish and Wildlife called Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ). CHANJ aims to identify key areas and the actions needed for preserving and restoring habitat connectivity for terrestrial wildlife in New Jersey. CHANJ has the potential to increase the sustainability of New Jersey’s terrestrial wildlife populations and de-list endangered species. #CHANJiscoming #CHANJ

 

We hope you enjoy our Story Map, Connecting Habitat: Waterloo Road!

 

Learn More:

 

Kelly Triece is a Wildlife Biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.