Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘amphibian’

Salamanders already on the move

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

by David Wheeler

Photo by David Moskowitz

The salamanders and frogs in East Brunswick got an early start to their migration season by crossing this week on February 15. David Moskowitz found spotted salamanders, wood frogs, dozens of spring peepers, and one wood frog crossing the temporarily closed section of Beekman Road in the early evening rain.

“This is the earliest they’ve ever moved – by about a week – in the 12 years I’ve been closing the road,” said Moskowitz.

East Brunswick has closed the road for a few nights each late winter/early spring when conditions are just right. While all amphibian species are vulnerable, spotted salamanders are a species of special concern in New Jersey.


Photo by David Moskowitz

Conserve Wildlife Foundation partners with certain municipalities and the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program on salamander crossings in northern New Jersey. This is a key initiative among CWF’s amphibian projects.

The East Brunswick crossing offers the best opportunity for the public to take part and see these salamanders and frogs up close. Check their website for the next expected crossing and share the road with a salamander!

CWF’s Online Field Guide Expands

Monday, January 25th, 2016

By Michael Davenport, GIS Program Manager

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ’s online field guide, a one-of-a-kind free reference focused on New Jersey’s wildlife, has recently expanded to include 23 additional species. As a result of recent status reviews by the state’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program for reptiles, amphibians, and butterflies, additional species within the state will be receiving an imperiled status of either Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern. Six reptile species are being added as well as four amphibians and thirteen butterfly species.


The Baltimore checkerspot, a species recently added to CWF’s on-line field guide. Photo courtesy of Eric C. Reuter.

Later this week, two additional blog entries will be posted regarding the status review process and the new listings. The posts will be: “Species Status Review process” (WEDNESDAY); and “How you can help fill-in data gaps” (FRIDAY).

The list of “new” species is below and each species name links to its field guide entry on our website:




NJ’s Frogs And Toads Are “Calling” For Your Help!

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
Volunteers Wanted for CAMP project

By: Larissa Smith, Wildlife Biologist/Volunteer Manager with Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Northern Gray Treefrog @ M. Patterson

Northern Gray Treefrog @ M. Patterson

It’s the heart of the winter season and cold outside, so the furthest thing from your mind is hearing the calls of New Jersey’s frogs and toads. But now is the time when we start getting ready for the Calling Amphibian Project (CAMP) and thinking ahead to the spring of 2015.


The object of CAMP is to assess the distribution, abundance, and health of New Jersey’s amphibians. This is part of a larger initiative called the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP) and the data collected in New Jersey will be submitted into the National database. Volunteers participating in this project will be asked to conduct roadside surveys (after dusk) for calling amphibians along designated routes throughout the state. Each 15-mile route with ten stops will be surveyed three times during the Spring and a structured protocol will be followed to determine which nights to survey, how long to survey, which species are calling, and how to estimate the total number of individuals calling at each site.


In 2014, 24 volunteers participated in CAMP and surveyed a total of 23 routes out of 63. We have many dedicated long-term CAMP volunteers. Unfortunately due to different circumstances some can no longer participate so we currently have 37 routes available for the 2015 survey season. If you are interested in learning more about this project, contact Larissa Smith.


This year we will be holding a meeting for CAMP  volunteers in January. The meeting will be a good opportunity to meet other volunteers and the biologists who work on the this project and other amphibian projects. Biologists from CWF, the state ENSP and DLUR will be there to discuss  the two “new” NJ frog species and how CAMP data is being used by the state.

Morning After Migration

Friday, April 5th, 2013


by MacKenzie Hall, Amphibian Crossing Project Coordinator


Karen Ruzycki gives a salamander a lift.  Photo: M. Hall

Karen Ruzycki gives a salamander a lift. Photo: M. Hall

Easter Sunday is a celebration of rebirth, resurrection, springtime, life.  And this Easter Sunday – right on cue – a warm day turned into a mild night, the mild night met with rain, and together they gave rise to lots and lots of life.   The amphibian migration was underway…in a big way!


Our teams were ready.  Despite heavy bellies and a long day with family, at least 50 trained volunteers came out to “guard” the animals at road-crossing hot spots.  From nightfall to around 11:00 pm we escorted, ferried, and tallied more than 3,000 salamanders and frogs across! (Numbers are still coming in from other teams.)


American toad in transit.  Photo: Karen Ruzycki

American toad in transit. Photo: Karen Ruzycki

It was a heart-pounding pace, often with multiple animals entering the roadway at once.  They didn’t seem to understand the danger, but we humans were darting in and out, racing against car tires and grabbing up slippery critters as fast as slippery critters can be grabbed…while still being safe, orderly, and polite to passing motorists.  A lot of drivers stopped to see what all the speed-walking was about.  One woman said “God bless!” when I showed her a fat female spotted salamander and told her about the migration.  Another guy must have been a local because he just asked “how many tonight?”


Everyone had an exhilarating night – the kind of migration night we plan for but don’t often get.  It was a lot of fun and we saved a lot of lives.  From the vehicle count, most of those little animals wouldn’t have stood a chance.  A few still didn’t.

Before heading home from the site where I was working, I took a midnight stroll down to the vernal pool.  It’s so neat to watch salamanders swimming around.  Especially the big spotted salamanders.  They spend almost their entire year underground in the woods, yet they are graceful and natural in the water.  They even look excited to be there, swirling around each other in contest and attraction.  I felt lucky to know about this wonderful thing.  It felt great to have made some of it possible.  Look at those gorgeous animals!  And their impossibly bright yellow spots!  They are colors lost in the night, but not by our watchful lights.

They made it!  Spotted salamanders in the pool.  Photo: M. Hall

They made it! Spotted salamanders in the pool. Photo: M. Hall

Morning After Migration

Friday, March 15th, 2013


by MacKenzie Hall, Amphibian Crossing Project Coordinator


A spotted salamander, photographed during a quiet moment along the road shoulder.  © Brett Klaproth

A spotted salamander, photographed during a quiet moment along the road shoulder. © Brett Klaproth

Following Monday’s all-night amphibian foray – and the prolonged terror/adrenaline rush of playing real-life Frogger – I drove home through a rainy sunrise on Tuesday.  According to a weather app on my phone, the rain would keep falling all day and end (wouldn’t you know) right around sunset.  “You gotta be kidding me,” I think is what I slurred.

Warm nighttime rain is the simple cue for mass movement, like what we had before dawn that day.  But nature is seldom that simple, so the task of monitoring an amphibian migration can get hairy.  The warm, soaking daytime rain would get the attention of those slumbering frogs and salamanders. Even if it stopped before dark, the wet ground and road would entice some of them to move.  Maybe a lot of them?  And right at the time when nighttime traffic would be heaviest on the roads.

So we sided with caution and rallied the teams to hit the streets at dusk.  I went back to Byram to lead a group of volunteers there while others covered different hot-spots. 

The rain did end early – earlier than expected even – and by nightfall our team was spreading out over a damp road.  It was a relief to see that a migration was happening anyway, albeit at a slower pace.  And the cars were filing through our setup (cones and signs, buffered by police) in threes and fours…99 vehicles in the first hour!  Basically, there was a car for every salamander that dared to cross the white line.

We did our best to stay ahead of the traffic.  By 11:00 pm the temperature was dropping, the road was drying, traffic was slowing, and so were the amphibians.  We paced the road below a starry sky with Orion front and center.  We had tallied another 175 spotted salamanders, 41 Jefferson’s salamanders, and 52 spring peepers.  Despite the heavy car flow early on, more than 85% of those animals made it to the safe side of the road – and eventually to their breeding pool below – with a little help from some friends.

The ingress migration to the pools is probably close to half-over across much of NJ, so we’ll be out few more times yet! 


THANKS to all the dedicated people who have helped so far.  It’s a diverse group of heroes, from long-time amphibian crossers like George Cevera and Carl Bernzweig, to new volunteers like Karen Ruzycki.  We have help from local partners like Margaret McGarrity of Byram Township, and engineering students from NJIT who want to help design solutions to the roadkill problem.  A couple reporters came out this week to cover the story and ended up shuttling amphibians, too.  We thank the Sussex County Division of Engineering for issuing us the permit to assemble on their road.  Thanks also to the Byram Police Department for their willingness to provide traffic control and their respect for our project, which I’m sure seems a little unusual.   And that’s just at one location.  Great job, everyone!