Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘amphibian crossing’

Morning After Migration

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013


by MacKenzie Hall, Amphibian Crossing Project Coordinator

This small vernal pool in Hopewell is ready for things to start hoppin'.

This small vernal pool in Hopewell is ready for things to start hoppin’.

For the 98 volunteers signed on to help with this year’s amphibian road-crossing efforts, yesterday brought on the first flurry of excitement.  Forty degrees!  The promise of nighttime rain!  Saturday’s soaker had helped to get the ground thawing, though many of the amphibians’ breeding pools were still capped in ice.  The conditions weren’t going to be perfect, but surely some eager salamanders would be enticed to come out from their winter burrows and set off on migration.  And when their tiny feet hit the pavement of peril, we were gonna be there gosh dernit!

So our “scouts” got ready for night (and rain) to fall, to go check on a dozen or so road-crossing hot-spots in northern and central NJ.  Then, as volunteer Phil Wooldridge of Warren County put it, we experienced a little deja-vu.  The rain started later, the temperature was colder.  North of Route 80, snow and sleet fell instead.  We amphibian crossers have gotten used to the shakiness of weather forecasts, and to the somewhat complex combination of triggers that set an amphibian migration in motion.  At any rate, we basically got skunked last night.

The only sign of life came from Hampton, in Sussex County, where Sharon and Wade Wander found a single Jefferson salamander crossing the road to his ice-covered breeding pool.  Tough little salamanders, those Jeffs.  Our first one of 2012 came out during a wet snowfall, too, around 2:00 am on February 24th. 

The town of East Brunswick was also counting on last night’s forecast when they decided to close Beekman Road – a town road bisecting an amphibian migration path.  The town’s Environmental Commission has coordinated the closure for the past 10 years to protect the spotted salamanders, wood frogs, and other migrants on 4 to 10 nights every spring (read about it here).  Even there, only one male spotted salamander was seen making his way to the pool.

So, we’ll keep doing our best to predict the amphibian migration and to be in the right places when it happens.  Clearly the big long nights are still in front of us.

To learn more about our Amphibian Crossing Project and experience the migration through video, please visit our “Amphibians Crossing!” webpage.

Salamanders and…Seattle?

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

By MacKenzie Hall, Private Lands Biologist

Seattle Space Needle

The iconic Space Needle, photographed from the edge of Puget Sound.

Last week – literally moments before Irene began her Garden State smack-down – my plane landed on home ground.  I was returning from six days in Seattle, WA, where more than 550 professionals from 21 countries gathered for the International Conference on Ecology & Transportation (ICOET).  The conference offered over 170 combined talks and posters on a variety of research, planning, ecology, and engineering topics that, by and large, had to do with animals crossing roads.

The reason I made the trip was our Amphibian Crossing project (ok, and it was also Seattle, birthplace of the counter-culture that fashioned my grungy teenagehood!).  Over the last decade we’ve surveyed, mapped, and prioritized hotspots throughout the northern half of NJ where frogs and salamanders have to travel across roads to reach their breeding pools each spring.  Enormous numbers are killed in doing so.  The hallmark of our Amphibian Crossing project has always been the volunteer-based rescue surveys – at night, in the rain, in traffic; requiring a lot of hands and a maniacal level of commitment to plan and carry out year after year.  At this point, we’ve got around 35 “high” and “highest” priority crossings…far too many to manually protect in the short-term, not to mention the long-term.  Our long-term solution is to get special under-road culverts installed for these migrating amphibians, and ICOET was a place I could find folks who have done it. (more…)