Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Amphibian Crossing Project’

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.

 

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.

Exploration of An Ecosystem That Most People Will Never See

Thursday, May 5th, 2016
CWF Vernal Pool Walks Connect New Jersey Residents with Rare, Seasonal Marvel

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

AndreaProctor_SpringPeeper

Spring Peeper photo by Andrea Proctor.

We all know that “April showers bring May flowers,” but the earlier rains of March stir up beauties of a different kind. When the first spring raindrops hit the barely-thawed ground and night falls on the forest, frogs, salamanders, and toads emerge from their winter burrows. These amphibians – the spotted salamanders, wood frogs, spring peepers, and others – are anxious to get to their breeding pools and lay their eggs. The waters that they choose are called vernal pools because they fill with rainwater, snowmelt, and rising groundwater in early spring but then dry up as summer advances. The pools are thus temporary and cannot support fish, meaning fewer predators for the amphibian eggs and young.

In the northeastern United States, vernal pools are home to over 500 species. In New Jersey, these pools are critical habitat for amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, migratory waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds. All 14 of New Jersey’s frog species use vernal pools to breed and two endangered salamander species breed exclusively in vernal pools, including Cape May’s eastern tiger salamander.

The new generation of amphibians must race to complete metamorphosis and leave the vernal pool before the water does. Under perfect conditions of warm, thawing, nighttime rains, there may be hundreds or even thousands of amphibians moving at once toward the same breeding pool. The darkness and the rain allow them to move stealthily over the landscape, hidden from predators like the owl and raccoon.

 

CWF’s Kelly Triece organized a series of walks through the vernal pools of Waterloo Village in Sussex County, New Jersey, and showed residents the unexpected creatures swimming in the pool’s shallow waters. Kelly led the exploration of an ecosystem that most people will never see! Participants listened to the songs of Spring Peepers and discovered salamander eggs, fairy shrimp, and other unique creatures as the evenings set in. Here are photos from her walks:

CWF biologist Kelly Triece educates participants on the natural resources of Waterloo.

CWF biologist Kelly Triece educates participants on the natural resources of Waterloo.

CWF biologist Kelly Triece looking for wildlife in the vernal pool.

CWF biologist Kelly Triece looking for wildlife in the vernal pool.

 

Spotted Salamander Eggs! Photo by Kelly Triece.

Spotted Salamander Eggs! Photo by Kelly Triece.

 

Green Frog photo by Kelly Triece.

Green Frog photo by Kelly Triece.

 

Examining the wildlife found in the vernal pool after dark.

Examining the wildlife found in the vernal pool after dark.

 

 

 

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

Volunteers Wanted! Amphibian Crossing Project

Monday, February 8th, 2016
Interested in Helping Amphibians Cross the Road this Spring?

by Kelly Triece, Private Lands Biologist

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

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

Amphibians, our harbingers of spring, are soon to be calling in the swamps, pools and woodlands of New Jersey. Thousands of salamanders, frogs, and toads make short, stealthy migrations through the forest to breed and lay their eggs in breeding pools every spring.

 

However, vehicle mortality during amphibian migration season is a big issue for small animals like amphibians. A single vehicle can harm dozens of the slow-moving animals as they try to cross the road during migration. High traffic volumes can wipe out entire populations over time. For Conserve Wildlife Foundation biologists, this means we will be out on the roadways helping secure safe passage for these amphibians.

 

Since 2002, we have worked to protect early-spring breeding amphibians like the wood frog, spotted salamander, Jefferson salamander, and spring peeper during their annual migrations. Last year at our biggest Amphibian Crossing site, we assisted 2,684 Spring Peepers, 1,100 Spotted Salamanders, 270 American Toads, 139 Wood Frogs, 95 Jefferson Salamanders and 18 Red-spotted newts cross the road!

 

The Amphibian Crossing Project relies on volunteers like you. Amphibian migration is completely weather-dependent, but usually occurs between March and April, three-five nights a year. We work in evening shifts and scan the road for crossing amphibians, record species, and number of animals crossing.

 

If you are interested in volunteering with our Amphibian Crossing Project at locations in North Jersey, please contact Kelly Triece. Volunteers must be 18 years or older.

A volunteer assists in CWF Amphibian Crossing Project. Photo by Kelly Triece.

A volunteer assists in CWF Amphibian Crossing Project. Photo by Kelly Triece.

 

The Amphibian Crossing Project aims to secure funding for amphibian crossing tunnels at two priority sites. This 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 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

 

Stay tuned as the amphibian attempts to cross the road once again!

 

Learn More:

 

Kelly Triece is the Private Lands Biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

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