Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Amphibians’ Category

Encouraging Development for Tiger Salamanders

Thursday, February 29th, 2024

By Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

Close up of an adult tiger salamander.

In today’s world, it’s pretty difficult to think of a species that scientists are not concerned about in the face of climate change. The reasons are many and diverse, but in a state where 42% of municipalities are considered “coastal”, it comes as no surprise that sea level rise (SLR) is a big threat here- both to people and wildlife. When the average person imagines which species are most likely to be impacted by SLR, it’s likely that beach nesters, including piping plovers, immediately come to mind. Afterall, they occupy the same environments that recreationalists are worried about losing. Valid point- but they are not the only ones. Eastern tiger salamanders, one of New Jersey’s rarest amphibians, also make the list. 

Like our other mole salamanders (spotted, blue-spotted, marbled, and Jefferson), Eastern tiger salamanders require access to temporary wetlands, called vernal pools, to successfully breed. The ephemeral nature of these water bodies is critical because it eliminates fish as potential egg predators and thus increases larval survival. While these salamanders spend much of the year in forested landscapes, adults return annually to their natal pools (in most cases) to reproduce. High fidelity to these sites can put these amphibians in danger if development occurs within their migration corridors or changes transpire within the pools themselves. 


The Double-edged Sword of Reptile and Amphibian Accessibility

Friday, August 11th, 2023

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

Although I spend much of my time thinking about reptiles and amphibians, if you were to ask me if I could be classified as a “herper”, my immediate answer would be no. When I go for hikes, my objective is to reach the summit and take in the view- I’m not generally looking to offroad and go slow. I recently compiled a list, however, of all the herps that I have found during my outdoor adventures this year and was shocked to realize that I’ve encountered 31 species of wild turtles, snakes, frogs, and salamanders. Of those, I had the intention of locating 13 as part of my seasonal field assignments for CWF- the rest were all incidental finds. Moreover, despite the period in question being rather lengthy, it was very easy for me to parse apart which species were really 2023 observations versus some other year.  And I can recall where I was and what the individual was doing in each case.

Christine’s Reptile/Amphibian list for 2023.

A Partnership of Herpetologists

Tuesday, August 8th, 2023

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

It’s always fun to learn the collective names for groups of animals. For example, in the amphibian and reptile world, we have an army of frogs; a congress of salamanders; a bale of turtles; and a lounge of lizards. I wonder what quippy term could describe a group of herpetologists- the folks who spend their lives studying the armies, congresses, bales, and lounges? Perhaps… a partnership?

In that case, a partnership of herpetologists from as far south as Virginia all the way up to Maine descended upon Middletown, Connecticut last month. Not to cross some rare species off their life list (though coincidentally, I crossed two off mine), but rather to attend the annual Northeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (NEPARC) conference, hosted at Wesleyan University.

CWF biologist, Christine Healy, holds a ribbon snake that was located during a NEPARC field trip along a powerline.

Pints with a Purpose

Thursday, July 6th, 2023

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

Complete the lyrics: Nothing else matters in the whole wide world when you’re in love with a…

If you said Jersey Girl, then you’d be correct! Coincidentally, that’s also where volunteers and supporters alike gathered last month to show their love for amphibians. Jersey Girl Brewing in Mount Olive, that is.

Two years ago, we partnered with Jersey Girl to host a trivia event to raise awareness for our Amphibian Crossing Project, an initiative that seeks to reduce mortality among populations of frogs and salamanders whose migratory pathways are bisected by roadways. We chose the location based on its proximity to our largest crossing site, Waterloo Road, in the hopes that many of our hardworking volunteers could attend. We had a great turnout and a lot of fun. Following several requests, we decided to bring it back this year for round two.

Participants, including former CWF intern, Nicole Bergen (who helped write and host our first trivia event) pause during answer deliberation to smile for the camera.
Lots of familiar faces were in the crowd at Jersey Girl, including CWF’s Founder, Linda Tesauro, trustees Steve Neumann, Rick Weiman, and Amy Greene, former amphibian crossing leads MacKenzie Hall and Allegra Mitchell, former CWF intern, Morgan Mark,  and many new and seasoned volunteers, like Barb and Rick McKee, without whom, this project could not succeed.

Happy Amphibian Week!

Tuesday, May 9th, 2023

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

If you follow us or any other wildlife organizations on social media, you may have noticed that our posts these last few days have been inundated with amphibians. It may seem like odd timing, given that our early breeders (wood frogs, spotted, and Jefferson salamanders) completed their crossroad migration last month. But the reason is simple – it’s Amphibian Week!

Close up of an American toad that hitched a ride during this year’s crossing. Photo Credit: Nikki Griffiths

Globally, amphibians are disappearing faster than any other vertebrate group. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that 41% of amphibian species categorized for their Red List are currently facing extinction. That estimate is likely conservative, given that these creatures are often small and difficult to survey, rendering many species data deficient. This is concerning from multiple perspectives. From an ethical standpoint, we don’t want any wildlife to go extinct except maybe, in my extremely biased opinion, certain types of ticks… (I began my career as a moose technician and saw firsthand the terrible consequences that winter ticks have on these behemoths). Beyond that though, amphibians are tasked with a lot of responsibilities and carry out their work efficiently and without complaint. The list is inexhaustive but here are a few things that amphibians are doing for us and our planet as we speak: filtering water, sequestering carbon, eating pests (like mosquitos!), serving as prey for countless predators, helping researchers study regeneration (with hopeful applications to the future of organ transplants), aerating the soil in your garden,  indicating where water sources have been contaminated by pollutants, and giving everyone who meets them a reason to smile.