Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘amphibian’

Morning After Migration

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013


by MacKenzie Hall, Amphibian Crossing Project Coordinator


The past week has been like a wild trip through biomes and time zones.  A half-foot of wet snow buried NJ on Friday, but it didn’t stand a chance against a  sunny weekend above 50˚F and the valiant arrival of Daylight Savings Time.  Bam!  Spring.  Suddenly birds were singing, crocuses were blooming, and salamanders were stretching their hamstrings for the journey ahead.

Throughout the day on Monday (March 11) a long wall of rain crept eastward across the US.  It couldn’t possibly miss NJ, and the temperature would hold around 50˚F overnight – excellent predictors for a migration.  The question was when the rain would hit and whether a rainfall starting very early in the morning would trigger many amphibians to move.  There seem to be almost unlimited permutations for how the important factors of ground thaw, temperature, rainfall, date, and time of night can converge, and after almost 10 years with the Amphibian Crossing Project I still learn new and surprising things. 


Snapshot of a Jefferson salamander being helped across the road.

Snapshot of a Jefferson salamander being helped across the road.

A handful of us chose to wait out the rain at one of our big road-crossing sites in Byram (Sussex Co.).  At least 3 hours before the rain even started, someone noticed a salamander crossing the dry road.  We spread out to cover more ground and kept counting.  By the time the first raindrops hit we had already tallied (and ferried) 190 salamanders and 20 frogs across the asphalt threshold dividing their forest habitat from the breeding pool below.  We were all pretty surprised and excited by what we were seeing.

The rain came around 2:30 am, and in the 4 hours before dawn the road was swimming with frogs and salamanders.  We did our best to keep up with the count, and the rescue, especially as vehicle traffic picked up toward dawn.  Eight cars per hour around 3:00 am, then 10 cars per hour, then 26.  By 6:15 it was hard for the last of us – Bob Hamilton and I – to keep our feet on the pavement as the vehicle count crested 100 per hour.  We also started to lose the battle against roadkill – as many animals were getting hit as we could save.  Luckily it was just a short period, and at dawn the migration would pause.   Our totals for that night:  1,119 salamanders and frogs, 954 of which made it to their destination!

Our “scouts” all across northern & central NJ had similar reports.  A big migration had happened before dawn, and there was some roadkill as evidence.  But you can listen for a happier kind of evidence – the honking and peeping of those who made it to their pool.  The harbingers of spring are arriving.


Friday, November 16th, 2012


Northern Gray Treefrog © Thomas Gorman

By: Larissa Smith: Wildlife Biologist/Volunteer Manager

When people first hear the word CAMP they might think of going out in the woods and setting up a tent, but CWF’s CAMP project is all about monitoring New Jersey’s amphibian population. CAMP stands for the Calling Amphibian Monitoring Project.

In 2012 33 volunteers participated and surveyed a total of 33 routes out of 63. Volunteers conduct roadside surveys (after dusk) for calling amphibians along designated routes throughout the state. Each 15-mile route is surveyed three times during the spring. Each route has 10 stops, where volunteers stop, listen and record all frog and toad calls for 5 minutes.

In 2012 15 out of the 16 New Jersey amphibian species were detected. The only species not detected was the Eastern Spadefoot.  Northern Spring Peepers were the most common species detected on 31 of the routes while Green Frogs were detected on 22 routes.  Both the American Bullfrog and Southern Leopard Frog were heard on 16 of the routes.

In NJ there are four frog and toad species of conservation concern; the Southern gray Treefrog  is a state endangered species, the Pine Barrens Treefrog  is a state threatened species, and the Carpenter Frog and Fowler’s Toad are both  special concern species. The Southern Gray Treefrog was detected on 2 of the CAMP route, the Pine Barren Treefrog on 3 of the routes, the Fowler’s Toad on 13 of the routes and the Carpenter Frog on 7 of the routes.

CAMP data is entered into the North American Amphibian Monitoring  Program (NAAMP)  database housed by the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. All of the occurrence data for these species is  extracted from the NAAMP database, quality checked for validity, and entered into the Biotics database by CWF & ENSP staff. These data will then be used in future versions of the Landscape Project maps.  These maps are used by planners in various state, county, municipal and private agencies to avoid conflict with critical wildlife habitat.

Thank you to all CAMP volunteers!


  • Twenty-five routes are available for the 2013 season
  • For more information on volunteering e-mail:



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…)

Amphibians on the Move!

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

By Karena DiLeo, Assistant Biologist

Jefferson Salamander, a species of special concern in New Jersey, crossing to its breeding pools. Photo by MacKenzie Hall.

Well, it’s that time of year again.  As the temperature slowly climb and the ground thaws with spring rains, New Jersey amphibians emerge from their upland habitat and begin their long and increasingly treacherous journey to their spring breeding pools.

This March marked my first official amphibian migration night with Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Amphibian Crossing Project.  As always, any potential migration night begins with frantic checking for weather updates, a call to volunteers to suit up and meet us at rescue sites, early arrival to set up road signs and safety equipment, and hoping the rains continue…we wait.  We wait as rush hour begins, the traffic steadily increasing as dusk falls, and then it happens: one by one, we spot wood frogs and spotted salamanders on the road edges- hesitating to leave the coverage of the forest almost like they know the roads bisecting their ancestral migration paths may prove an impassable barrier.

This past Thursday, our destination was a rescue site on East Shore Drive in Stillwater Township.  With the help of dedicated volunteers, including boy scouts from local Patriots Path Council, we patrolled almost 250 meters of roadway and rescued 572 frogs, salamanders, and newts in just 2 ½ hours—that’s 229 amphibians per hour!  Within this short span of time we also waved 70 cars through- most of which seemed oblivious to natural phenomenon taking place under their wheels.

Dedicated volunteers patrol roadway. From left to right: Diane Gonski, Doug Hankin, Wayne Bancroft, Eckhardt Debbert, and Paul Cook. Photo by Phil Wooldridge.

By 10pm, migration had slowed and more importantly traffic had too.  So it was on to the next site.  MacKenzie and I wanted to check out how a site on a busy road faired in Liberty Township.  The results were disheartening—within a narrow corridor we saw at least 50 dead frogs and salamanders littering the road.  During the hour we patrolled, 50 spotted salamanders were counted (and moved) trying to cross a road with still significant traffic at 11pm at night.

Wood frog dead on road. Photo by MacKenzie Hall.

If  hundreds of amphibians died within hours in this narrow corridor- imagine how many thousands are killed throughout the state each rainy spring night.  Each individual’s death marks a loss to the population but with females carrying between 200 and 2,000 eggs it marks a significant loss not only to their species future generations but also to the ecosystem as an important food source to other animals.

I knew the importance of amphibian migration and the potential extirpation populations were facing due to roads- I had seen other migration nights but I had never before seen the mass mortalities on a single road.  So please on the next rainy spring night, leave your car in your driveway and instead grab a flashlight and see what you can find or contact CWF and become one of our dedicated Amphibian Crossing volunteers!

Monitoring New Jersey’s Amphibians

Monday, November 29th, 2010
Volunteers needed for 2011 season

by Larissa Smith, Assistant Biologist and Volunteer Manager

Vibrant green and boldly marked, the Pine Barrens treefrog is one of New Jersey’s most beautiful amphibians. © George Cevera

If you enjoy hearing the sounds of frogs and toads and like a bit of adventure then the NJ Calling Amphibian Project (CAMP) might be the right project for you!  Each of the 16 species of frogs and toads in NJ has a unique vocalization or “call” that can be heard during their mating season.  The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ is actively recruiting  volunteers to participate in a statewide Calling Amphibian Monitoring Program (CAMP). Fourteen CAMP routes are currently available for the 2011 season.

  • Click here to learn more about volunteering.
  • For detailed project information, click here.
  • To view results from the 2010 season, click here.

If you are interested in learning more about the CAMP project please contact Larissa Smith at or 609.628.0402