Two local programs help amphibians cross the road

ADDISON COUNTY — It is almost that time of year when calls from spring peepers announce the migration of amphibians from their winter homes on high ground to breeding sites in wetlands to mate and lay eggs.
Imagine the scene. After months deep underground or in a frozen state of torpor, salamanders and frogs emerge en masse on wet, warm early spring nights and begin their march to breeding grounds. It is easy to be intrigued by these seldom-seen amphibians. They radiate charisma, determination and moxie on even the rainiest evening.
However, when the route to and from the breeding ground crosses a busy road, they are in great peril. At the most dangerous crossings, amphibians may suffer 50 percent mortality. Across Vermont, concerned individuals attempt to alter amphibians’ lethal odds by moving them off the road during nights of significant movement.
Two local efforts will support their safe transit this spring. One is an indoor workshop and the other is a long-time volunteer project. Both are initiatives of local groups.
The Cornwall Conservation Commission has a program on March 21, from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Cornwall Town Hall with biologist Sean Beckett from North Branch Nature Center. Sean’s presentation, “Amphibian Ecology and Road Rescue Training” will describe how to be a helpful “crossing guard,” assisting at local road crossings. He will also talk about North Branch’s Amphibian Road Crossing Citizen Science Project. Volunteers are recruited to rescue thousands of amphibians in local communities and record this migration data for future use by ecologists and town planners. Families are welcome to attend the workshop. For more information, contact Mary Dodge at 802-462-2899.
Meanwhile, Otter Creek Audubon Society and the Salisbury Conservation Commission are in their sixteenth year of patrolling an amphibian site in Salisbury. The site has large numbers of amphibians and remarkable diversity — four salamander and three frog species. On one “Big Night,” more than a thousand amphibians were moved in a two-hour period. The Salisbury crossing has little traffic and affords the opportunity to experience this remarkable natural phenomenon first hand.
If interested in being a “Salamander Escort,” sign up for this year’s email alert. The 2019 window is Monday, March 18 to Sunday, April 7. Registrants will receive an email on the morning of a projected good night and then a confirming email at about 6 p.m. Movement starts around 8:15 p.m. and can run for several hours.
Volunteers may arrive and leave when they wish and are responsible for their own safety and the safety of others in their group. Upon arrival OCAS provides species identification tips and guidelines for appropriate behavior. The goal is to record the numbers of each species moved for two hours. Sign up at [email protected].

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