Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Sussex County’

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.


Allegra Mitchell is a biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.


Giving the Federally Endangered Bog Turtle a Fighting Chance in New Jersey

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016
Coalition of Agencies Working Together to Enhance Turtle Habitat in Sussex County

by Kelly Triece, Biologist

Bog Turtle photo by Brian Zarate, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife

Bog Turtle photo by Brian Zarate, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife

Through federal partnerships and incentive programs, the federally endangered bog turtle can have a fighting chance in New Jersey! The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), in partnership with Conserve Wildlife Foundation, New Jersey Audubon Society, and Wallkill River Watershed Management Group, are currently working to restore a once natural wetland on private property in Sussex County. The program is possible through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, Wetlands Reserve Easement (WRE). WRE is a voluntary program that provides an opportunity for landowners to receive financial assistance in exchange for permanently protecting retired agricultural land. In their first year, NRCS and USFWS helped to restore and protect 52 acres of bog turtle habitat in New Jersey!


The goal of this project is to restore hydrology, enhance bog turtle habitat, control invasive species, and stabilize the stream bank. Through the partnerships we have already planted riparian buffers along the river and plan to conduct invasive species removal and create shallow water pools for wildlife such as amphibians.


The site contains active bog turtle habitat that has been degraded over time through grazing and other human induced impacts. Bog turtles are found throughout the state, but Sussex County is a hot spot because of its prime wetlands habitat. At the bog turtle site, cattle will be actively managed to graze the area for specific periods of time throughout the year. This will reduce invasive species and create mucky soils preferred by the bog turtle.


New Jersey Audubon Society was also able to supply a native sedge plant to enhance the wetland. Last week, a youth corps group from Phillipsburg, New Jersey met on site to help plant green bulrush. The bulrush will aid to improve water quality, as it will take up phosphorous and other nutrients moving into the water column. It will also aid to reduce erosion and provide food and cover for ducks, and other water birds. So far, 5,050 plugs of green bulrush have been planted!



CWF has also partnered on other Sussex County bog turtle restoration projects with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, USFWS, and the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Program.

Learn More:


Kelly Triece is a Biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Resurgence of New Jersey’s Fishers

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016
After more than a century, fishers are returning to New Jersey

by Kendall Miller, Communications Intern

Fisher photo by Josh More via Flickr Creative Commons.

Fisher photo by Josh More via Flickr Creative Commons.


New Jersey’s forests lost a charismatic top predator when the fisher was extirpated nearly a century ago. Exploitation of the fisher for its pelt — coupled with excessive logging practices during the 19th and 20th centuries — caused decimated populations of this North American native across its entire range. However, through the implementation of conservation practices, this small, yet spunky forest carnivore is experiencing a comeback.


Despite its past disappearance from the state, the combined effects of trapping bans and nearby relocation projects (New York and Pennsylvania) are resulting in the fisher’s resurgence in New Jersey. Within the last decade, the return of fishers to New Jersey has been an exciting new possibility, with multiple reported sightings, photos caught via trail camera and anecdotal stories by the public.


Recently, two trappings by state officials in North Jersey, both within a mere month of one another, mark the return of fishers to the state of New Jersey, and speaks for the potential future of this species, as well as others.


What exactly is a fisher?

Source: Canadian Geographic

Source: Canadian Geographic

Found only in North America, fishers historically inhabited forested and semi-forested land from coast to coast, ranging from Virginia to Quebec in the east. Found in deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests, they prefer areas with dense canopy cover, and tend to avoid areas with human disturbances.


Also referred to as the fisher cat and Appalachian black cat, this animal looks like fluffy cat meets fox, with a wolverine-like disposition. However, it is neither a feline nor does it catch fish. The fisher (Martes pennanti) is a member of the Mustelidae family, which includes otters, badgers, martens, ferrets, minks, wolverines and more.


The fisher is a long bodied and short legged animal, with a bushy tail that makes up a third of its total body length. There is a substantial size sexual dimorphism between males and females. Males weigh 8-13 pounds and reach lengths between 35-47 inches. Females weigh between 3 and 7 pounds and are between 30-37 inches long. Males have grizzled fur due to blonde guard hairs on their neck and shoulders, while females are a uniform chocolate brown.


A generalist carnivore species, a fisher will eat anything it can catch — typically small- to medium-sized mammals and birds. Carrion and some nuts and fruits also make up a portion of its diet. They are known to eliminate weak or injured deer, especially in times of heavy snow pack.


While its diet may be general, one part is very special: this is the only predator of porcupines in the country. The prickly defenses of the porcupine protect it against almost all predators except the fisher, who has developed a special way of hunting its prey. It will chase a porcupine up a tree until it can go no further and falls. Then, it will make a head-first descent down the tree with the help of semi-retractable claws and feet that can turn nearly 180 degrees. The fall stuns the porcupine, allowing the fisher to access the unprotected underside.


These predators share prey with coyotes, bobcats, foxes and even raptors, creating competition with these species. Fishers have been known to travel hundreds of miles to meet their dietary needs, able to cross water if need be.


They live a solitary life-style, with home ranges between 1-3 square miles, seldom overlapping, which suggests territoriality. They are found to be active at any point during the day or night. Fishers make homes in dens year round, using a variety of forest resources such as tree hollows, stumps, debris piles, natural crevices and underground tunnels. Females with litters will use tree hollows that are far off the ground.


Fishers themselves have no natural enemies and few disease occurrences. Trapping by humans and vehicle collisions likely account for the majority of deaths throughout their range.


Learn More:


Kendall Miller is the Communications Intern for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.