Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Amphibians’

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.

 

Wildlife returns to the industrial Newark Bay waterfront

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

by David Wheeler

Under the sweltering September sun, our team discovers the earth at our fingertips. We ready the manure, topsoil, and mulch, wield the pickax and trowel, and labor the wheelbarrow through the trees and up the slope of a tidal berm.

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We plant 250 native shrubs and 580 native herbaceous plugs. We hammer in nest boxes, install pollinator houses, construct mounds of brush for local and migrating wildlife, and create nesting habitat for northern diamondback terrapin, an at-risk turtle species.

We lose ourselves in nature for the day.

A migrating butterfly flits past leisurely and I look up from the soil to wipe my brow. Suddenly I remember exactly where this newly vibrant natural ecosystem is. Nearly overhead, I can watch never-ending streams of commuters and tractor trailers motor past over one of the busiest bridges in the nation – the Newark Bay Bridge. Just across the bay, I can see heavy industry. Out beyond the fence, more industry – ancient, tireless, modern progress marching forward.

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Yet on this morning, and those that follow, we now have ecological progress here as well, in a place that was written off entirely not so long ago. The Newark Bay region has suffered a century and a half of environmental degradation at the hands of industry and unbridled development.

This active industrial site is home to Firmenich Inc., one of the largest manufactures of fragrances in the world. We have transformed the land today to invite wildlife partners to help balance the scales of the region’s damaged ecology.

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Green Darner dew laden on Echinacea.

These partners are vital to our environment, to our health, to the world around us. They are the butterflies and bees, the wasps and beetles, the flies and moths that make up an army of pollinators that in coordinated effort provide humanity with the lungs of our planet. Without these pollinators, native plants could not sink carbon dioxide and impart oxygen to our surroundings, every minute of every day. Without these pollinators, the bread baskets of the world would wither away, no longer filled with grains, fruits, and vegetables.

The natural partnerships don’t stop with the pollinators born forth from meadow creation. These partners extend to migrating songbirds and mighty raptors, small mammals and diamondback terrapins.

“If we give nature an inch, it’s going to take a yard. Give it a chance and nature will return,” says biologist Blaine Rothauser, who is directing the restoration for GZA Environmental. “Wildlife just needs an opportunity.”

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Immature night heron with crab.

Nature’s inspiring return builds upon decades of ecological recovery in the region. Thanks to President Nixon’s Clean Water Act of 1973, the water began to get cleaner. Improving the water quality reanimated the food chain from the bottom up – phyto- and zooplankton, invertebrates and crustaceans reappeared. In turn, a fishery was reborn, which ushered in the return of herons, ibis, osprey, turtles, and even harbor seals – seen sunning on the banks of tidal shores in winter!

Yet much of the land around the water’s edge is still wanting.

“The restoration site is an important buffer habitat to a large portion of undeveloped tidal bay directly adjacent to the Firmenich complex,” says Rothauser. “Today we have 60 people planting a native community of shrubs, trees and plants on a formerly sterile lawn and an unnaturalized earthen berm. It is vital work that makes a real difference.”

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The team has also created opportunities for rare species to nest. Above our heads, an osprey platform has been installed, empowering this magnificent fish-eating raptor to continue its recovery along Newark Bay and many other New Jersey waterways, industrial and remote alike.

A barn owl box offers one of our most mysterious nighttime predators the opportunity to set up shop in a beneficial area – where there is no shortage of rabbits and field mice to help control.

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Close up of a barn owl.

Across the pond, a purple martin condominium-like house offers the ample space necessary for these communal swallows to reside, a home base where they can feast on flying insects.

With the first phase of the project almost complete, the second phase will seek to transform the site’s holding ponds into ecologically productive floating wetlands, bringing herons and egrets and other wading birds.

Ultimately, this project is envisioned as one that can be replicated just about anywhere along Newark Bay – or any industrial waterfront for that matter. All it takes is the willingness to look at a site’s land from a different perspective – and in so doing, to understand that the ecological benefits of bringing back many wildlife species aren’t negated by losing economic tradeoffs.

Instead they can mean parallel economic benefits. Natural pest control. Fewer landscaping and pesticide costs. Increased employee morale and productivity, with a newfound opportunity to recharge body and mind with a rejuvenating break outside, enjoying natural beauty and the engagement of your senses.

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Images above from left to right – Killdeer, 12 Spotted Skipper, and American Kestrel.

New Jersey has long served as a primary engine for America’s industry and commerce – and in return has often been derided as the “Which exit?” land of nothing but turnpike and smokestacks. The Meadowlands just to the north of here bore the brunt of that reputation, yet in recent decades has made a mind-blowing ecological recovery to become a wildlife – and ecotourism – destination.

The waters flow south from the Meadowlands along the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers, and they come together in the Newark Bay. Now, that next wave of wildlife recovery and habitat restoration has arrived just downstream – along the Newark Bay waterfront.

For wildlife, it’s where the action is.

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David Wheeler is the executive director of Conserve Wildlife Foundation and author of the book, Wild New Jersey: Nature Adventures in the Garden State.

 

All photos courtesy of Blaine Rothauser.

 

American Toad: Myths and Misconceptions

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
Learn the Facts about a Common New Jersey Amphibian

by Liam Hobbie, Field Intern

Adult American toad photo by Kelly Triece

Adult American toad photo by Kelly Triece

Did you know that wetlands are very important habitats that provide benefits for both humans and wildlife alike? Generally defined as “land consisting of marshes or swamps”, wetlands provide natural flood control by soaking up runoff from heavy rains and filter out chemicals, pollutants, and sediments that would otherwise contaminate our drinking water. They also provide a home for much of the fish and wildlife species that inhabit the state of New Jersey.

 

Due to the extensive development and urbanization of the state to accommodate our ever-growing population, much of New Jersey’s natural wetlands have ceased to exist. In the 1980’s a study conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) found that, since the mid-1900’s, the state lost at least 20 percent of its natural wetland resources. Since then, concerted efforts have been made to protect, restore, and create wetland habitats across the state. One such effort has been made by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) with the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) project, a component of The Agricultural Conservation Program in partnership with Conserve Wildlife Foundation. WRE is a voluntary program that provides an opportunity for landowners to receive financial assistance in exchange for permanently protecting retired agricultural land.

Lamington River, Bedminster, Somerset County. Location of American toads.

Lamington River, Bedminster, Somerset County. Location of American toads.

While walking one such easement property in Bedminster, Somerset County we observed a population of American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) polliwogs in a shallow water inlet along the Lamington River. There had to be hundreds of these young toads both in the water and on the shore. The American toad is just one example of a wildlife species that benefits from readily available wetland habitat and that is also vulnerable to habitat loss due to wetland destruction. Although they are very common in New Jersey, and many people can recognize a toad when they see one, there are still a handful of myths and misconceptions about toads that I would like to address.

American toad- just metamorphizing into an adult! Photo by Kelly Triece

American toad- just metamorphizing into an adult! Photo by Kelly Triece

Myth 1 – Toads will give you warts if you touch them: False. While toads do have warts across their bodies, they cannot transmit these warts to humans as warts in people are actually caused by a virus. This doesn’t mean you should go around handling every toad you come across, but if you do pick one up you will not contract warts from it.

 

Myth 2 – Toads must be completely safe to handle if they do not transmit warts: False. Toads secrete toxins through their skin so it is completely necessary to wash one’s hands after handling a toad. They also are known to pee in self-defense, especially when picked up by a human. This may not bother some people but you should still make sure to wash your hands after holding one.

 

Myth 3 – Wild-caught toads make good pets: False. While toads are very easy to care for, and it is not hard to replicate their natural environment in a fish tank, it is still very important to leave wild toads wherever you find them. Toads will spend their whole lives in one area, leaving it once or twice a year just to go breed, and it can be very disruptive to a toad’s well-being to find itself in a new home. If you do happen to keep a toad for more than a few minutes, it is of utmost importance that it gets returned to exactly where you found it. Releasing it into any suitable habitat would seem adequate enough, but it would be like if one day you just found yourself wandering around Nebraska with no way of knowing where to go or how to get home!

 

Myth 4 – Toads are terrestrial species and do not need to be near water to thrive: False. Toads will spend most of their lives hanging out in fields or meadows or even forests, but they do need access to pools of water in order to breed. Every summer, toads will migrate to pools to find mates and to lay eggs. While they do not swim, like their close relative the frog, they still benefit from having shallow water habitat in close proximity to where they spend most of their time.

 

Myth 5 – Toads are poisonous: TRUE. Contact with a toad’s skin will not give you warts and it will not poison you just through skin-to-skin contact. However, they have glands just behind their eyes that when pressed will secrete a milky-white substance that can severely harm someone if ingested. This may not be a danger to most people, as most humans have no interest in putting toads in their mouths, but it is a concern for dogs. Dogs very typically love to grab strange objects with their mouths, which applies enough pressure to a toad’s glands to excrete their poison. This can be very detrimental to a canine’s health and can even kill them. If you find yourself wandering around toad habitats with your beloved pup ensure that they do not try to eat any toads that they come across. If your dog does mistakenly poison itself you should take it to a vet immediately.

 

NRCS easement boundary sign.

NRCS easement boundary sign.

Through programs like WRE, more and more wetland habitats are being made available across the state for wildlife species like toads. It is important to be aware of what impact you can have on them, as well as what could happen to you or your pet through contact with toads.

 

Learn More:

 

Liam Hobbie is a 2016 field intern for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

“For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest: Third Place Winners

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
Congratulations, Edana Lobsco and Matthew Sullivan!

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

Earlier in 2016, Conserve Wildlife Foundation launched the “For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest. Our photography contest was meant to showcase the love for and need to protect the endangered and threatened wildlife that call New Jersey home. We encouraged youth and adult photographers across the Garden State to submit photographs in the following categories:

  • New Jersey’s Rarest Residents: Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern Wildlife Species Only
  • The Garden State: New Jersey Landscapes
  • Experiencing Nature: People Enjoying the Outdoors
  • Wild New Jersey: All Animals in the Garden State

We were blown away by the amount of submissions we received! Over 1,470 entries were counted! New Jersey wildlife photographers, CWF board members and staff poured over the entries to choose our winners. Today, we are thrilled to announce both third place winners.


Edana Lobosco: Youth Photographer
Highland Lakes, New Jersey
“Frog in Hands”

Youth Third Place Winner Edana Lobosco "Frog in Hands"

Youth Third Place Winner Edana Lobosco “Frog in Hands”

In an interview with CWF, Edana said, “Thank you so much for picking my photo and giving me a chance to show off my photography!! I took this photo on the Appalachian Trail in Vernon, New Jersey, my friend scooped him up and it was a perfect photo op! I’ve been taking nature photos since the first time I ever picked up a camera. It started with just my mom’s flowers in her garden, and now whenever I’m outside I never forget my camera. There’s so many beautiful creatures in New Jersey, I don’t know if I can choose a favorite! I love watching the painted turtles in my lake sunbathe, and I love the variety of wildflowers that grow around the Garden State!”


Matthew Sullivan: Adult Photographer
Lambertville, New Jersey
Northern Gray Treefrog

Third Place Winner Matthew Sullivan Northern Gray Treefrog

Third Place Winner Matthew Sullivan Northern Gray Treefrog

Matthew says, “Treefrog breeding season is one of my favorite times of year in New Jersey. I was out looking to get this shot of a Pine Barrens Treefrog instead, but none of the ones I found would call no matter how long I sat there. This gray treefrog though was more than willing to sing loudly for me, I just had to time it right and after a few tries, I got my shot. I’ve been seriously photographing nature for 6 or 7 years now, but have been outside looking for wildlife since I was old enough to walk. My personal favorite animals in New Jersey are the reptiles and amphibians, even more specifically, Pine Barrens Treefrogs, Timber Rattlesnakes, and Eastern Hognoses.”


Stay Tuned as we announce the second place winners of the “For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest over the next few days!

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager 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.

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