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News Watch for amphibians on the road

This April and May, be mindful of amphibians as they emerge from their winter retreats and travel to breeding sites. Use caution while driving on rainy spring nights.
3/29/2019
  • Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
  • MassWildlife's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program

Media Contact for Watch for amphibians on the road

Marion Larson, MassWildlife

Eastern spadefoot on the road

Spring has been slow to materialize throughout much of Massachusetts in 2019, but April rains will finally bring our early spring-breeding amphibians out of their winter retreats. Marshes will resonate with the annual chorusing of spring peepers and northern leopard frogs, while the musical trilling of American toads and the raucous quacking of wood frogs will be heard from vernal pools in fields and forests alike. The forest floor will come alive with the creeping, crawling, and hopping of salamanders and frogs as they migrate through the landscape to access their breeding sites. Others yet will take advantage of the rains to disperse to different patches of habitat. Unfortunately, many of those animals will be faced with the daunting task of having to cross roads to reach their destinations.

Spotted salamanders, wood frogs, blue-spotted salamanders, Jefferson salamanders, American toads, spring peepers, four-toed salamanders, northern leopard frogs, and eastern red-backed salamanders are all species that we frequently encounter on roads during early spring rains. However, unlike turtles, these animals can be difficult to see. They are generally small-bodied and move under the cover of dark. In the case of the blue-spotted salamander, they may even blend with the road surface. During mass migrations, amphibians occur at such high density on certain stretches of road that avoiding them while driving is virtually impossible. The ensuing carnage that follows is plain to see, as scores to hundreds of torn-up amphibian carcasses (and their now-exposed, light-colored underparts and entrails) litter roadways wherever they pass by vernal pools and other wetlands.

This April and May, please be mindful of our amphibians and our natural heritage. Please do your part to help ensure that future generations will come to know and appreciate the awesome sounds and signs of spring we all love. Whenever possible these next 2 months, please consider not driving on rainy nights when air temperatures are 40°F or higher. If you must travel during such conditions, delaying beyond the first 2 hours after sunset is recommended. Please drive cautiously and carefully, and travel on larger highways rather than small, wooded roads to the extent possible. You could even plan routes that minimize the number of wetlands or vernal pools passed.

If you are someone who likes to go out to observe amphibian migrations, please consider arriving at your destination prior to sunset, and then conduct your monitoring on foot. For those who assist amphibians across roadways or handle them for other reasons, be sure your hands are free of lotions, bug repellent, or other chemicals.

If you do happen to observe particular road segments with high levels of amphibian activity or mortality, please also consider reporting the site to the Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife initiative, which aims to compile data on problem areas to help identify ways to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. Lastly, if you encounter any of our state-listed rare amphibian species (eastern spadefoot and blue-spotted, Jefferson, and marbled salamanders) this spring, please take a clear photograph of the animal, carefully record the location, and submit an observation report to MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.

Media Contact for Watch for amphibians on the road

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife 

MassWildlife is responsible for the conservation of freshwater fish and wildlife in the Commonwealth, including endangered plants and animals. MassWildlife restores, protects, and manages land for wildlife to thrive and for people to enjoy.

MassWildlife's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program 

The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program is responsible for the conservation and protection of hundreds of species that are not hunted, fished, trapped, or commercially harvested in the state, as well as the protection of the natural communities that make up their habitats.
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