Spotted Salamander

Spotted Salamander

In the next week or two frogs and salamanders will move from their wintering sites on high ground to wetlands where they mate and lay eggs. Their route to the nearest vernal pool sometimes takes them across a road, where they run a considerable risk of mortality. They move only on warm, wet nights in early spring, when few of us are out driving. At the most dangerous crossings they may suffer 50 percent mortality. The wonder is that any population running this deadly gauntlet persists. But at a few more user-friendly crossings there is the opportunity for those of us with natural curiosity to see salamanders and frogs of several species and in unexpectedly large numbers.

Across Vermont, groups of concerned individuals attempt to alter these amphibians’ lethal odds by moving them off the road during nights of significant movement. This is the thirteenth spring that Otter Creek Audubon and the Salisbury Conservation Commission have patrolled a crossing site in Salisbury. This site retains not only large numbers of amphibians but also remarkable species diversity: four salamander and three frog species. On a big night we’ll move more than a thousand amphibians in a two-hour period.

To witness this remarkable migration and help perpetuate it, volunteers may sign up to receive an email alert on the morning of a projected big movement during the movement window and then a confirming email at about 6 pm. Movement starts around 8:15 pm and may run for several hours, weather permitting. Volunteers may arrive and leave when they wish. Volunteers are responsible for their own safety and the safety of others in their group. At this site traffic is infrequent and slow. Upon arrival Otter Creek Audubon provides a review of species identification tips and appropriate behavior. Data collectors will record the numbers of each species volunteers move for the first two hours. To sign up for the 2015 amphibian email alert list email kinglet@together.net.

– Warren King

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