Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Salamander migration

While many eyes and binoculars will be pointed toward the sky in anticipation of spring migration, another type of migration has already begun here in New Jersey. Late last week, as temperatures rose and rain started to fall, amphibians started to stir.

The migration of a salamander isn't exactly the 40,000 mile round-trip of the Arctic Tern, but it is just as important to these amphibian species. After awakening from their winter slumber, they have to move into vernal pools, seasonal ponds that fill with water during late winter and spring. Unfortunately many of these areas have been filled for development, and those that remain may be cut off from breeding populations by roads or other man-made obstacles. As salamanders move across roads in concentrated numbers, it only takes one car to drastically alter their population size, which could ultimately lead to local extinctions.

Spotted Salamander (c) Richard Wolfert 2010

One of the best known spots for salamander migration in the area is East Brunswick's Beekman Road. The town closes the road when conditions are favorable to limit the hurdles these animals must overcome to reach the vernal pools. Nature-lovers flock to the area when the migration begins, and carefully scan the road for different species.

The migration event lasts for only a few short weeks, and will only occur on warm, wet evenings. Rainfall is being predicted for the latter part of this upcoming weekend and early next week, so that may very well be the next best time to check out these little critters.

Please check the Salamander Page of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission for updates on when the road will be closed for migration. Currently there is also an emergency alert due to the recent storm.

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