DEC to drivers: Keep your eyes peeled for migrating amphibians

New York News
salamander dec

Many amphibian species, like this spotted salamander,
need healthy forests and wetland complexes. (L. Heady/DEC)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Community members in the Hudson Valley are getting out their flashlights, reflective vests, and raingear. Not because of “spring showers,” but in anticipation of annual breeding migrations of salamanders and frogs. These migrations typically begin in mid-March, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Volunteers in the Hudson Valley will record their observations as part of DEC’s Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings Project, coordinated by the Hudson River Estuary Program and Cornell University.

“Amphibians contribute to a healthy, functioning ecosystem and during this time of year, road mortality poses a significant threat to forest species that migrate to woodland pools for breeding,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC is grateful to the many volunteers who venture out each year to assist salamanders and frogs that encounter roads during their migration. I encourage all New Yorkers and visitors traveling the state’s roads to be on the lookout for these vulnerable amphibians and the dedicated volunteers keeping them safe and remind our volunteers to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” 

The timing of this migration is weather-dependent. In the Hudson Valley, activity typically starts on the first warm, rainy nights in mid-March to mid-April, after the ground has thawed and the air at night remains above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The suitability of migration conditions differs on the location in the Hudson River Estuary watershed, but when just right, can result in explosive “big night” migrations with hundreds of frogs and salamanders on the move.

In the coming weeks, as temperatures rise and snow melts, forest species like wood frog, spotted salamander, and Jefferson blue-spotted salamander will emerge from underground winter shelters and walk to woodland pools for breeding. On the journeys between upland forest habitat and breeding pools, the amphibians often need to cross roads, where mortality can be high even when traffic is low. 

Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings Project volunteers document Hudson Valley road locations where they observe migrations, record weather and traffic conditions, and identify and count the amphibians on the move. Volunteers also help the amphibians safely cross roads. New volunteers can also train themselves by using materials on the project website

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