April 4, 2022
Spring salamander migration: How you can help
Believe it or not, lots of amphibians get run over by cars, and it’s a significant source of population decline.
Amphibians tend to migrate en masse on one of the first warm (above 40 degrees Fahrenheit) and wet (rainy at night or throughout the day) nights of the spring. Known as the “Big Night,” these amphibians travel from their winter resting places on hillsides, down the hills, and into the ponds and vernal pools, where they will breed and lay eggs. Humans have often built roads directly through these routes, right at the base of a hill and before the ground gets too wet. This is where large amounts of amphibians get hit by cars.
Wait! This isn’t just a sad story! You can help!
A couple weeks ago, the Treeline Terrains team, along with our friends at the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, went to Morgan Road in Salisbury to help salamanders (and a few frogs) safely cross the road. By going out to roads that get a lot of amphibian traffic on these wet, warm, early spring nights, we can help move salamanders & frogs from one side of the road to the other. Hundreds of salamanders and frogs will often migrate in one night along a few hundred yard stretch of a road like this. You want to make sure you bring them from the hill-side to the wetland side, so they can continue their journeys down into the water. You can tally up the number of each species you see and submit those reports to a variety of orgs in Vermont, especially the VT Herp Atlas.
Our Salamander Saving Tips
Go out with a team! On the first warm (40°F) and rainy nights of the spring, teams from the North Branch Nature Center, Vermont Center for Ecostudies, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas organize events to help folks help salamanders cross the road. You can find salamander crossing teams all across the Northeast, so keep an eye out for groups in your area!
Advocate for wildlife road crossing infrastructure like under-the-road culverts that help amphibians cross the road safely on their own. These passageways help wildlife safely cross roads all throughout the year and help drivers running over wildlife.
Don’t squeeze too hard! All salamanders, especially the smaller ones, are fragile, so be careful not to squeeze them too hard. Salamanders freeze as their defense mechanism and they won’t try to escape from your hand, so holding them gently will work just fine.
Clean your hands first. Salamanders breathe through their skin, so anything on your hands will be absorbed. Make sure you don’t have any lotion or hand sanitizer on your hands before you start picking up the salamanders.
Use a scooper to help pick up the salamanders. Even when you’ve cleaned your hands, it’s safest for the salamanders if you use a plastic scooper (like the side of a cup) to avoid harming their skin.
Help the frogs! Frogs are also in danger of being hit by cars in these areas. If you see a frog while on your salamander saving mission, be sure to help it cross the road, too.
Have fun and take pictures. Salamanders look super cool, and there’s no harm in holding one for a few extra seconds to get a photo with your new amphibian friend.