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“Big Night” Hazard

big night 2016 IMG_7612Every year in early spring on a rainy night spotted, blue-spotted, Jefferson and four-toed salamanders, wood frogs, and spring peepers leave their leaf litter and subterranean winter hibernacula and migrate to their ancestral breeding pools to mate.  Sometimes there are roads between these two sites.  Vehicles driving these roads inevitably kill thousands of salamanders, wood frogs and spring peepers every year.  Concerned citizens have set up teams to try to scoop up these nocturnal travelers and escort them to the side of the road in which they were headed.  While this action definitely helps, it is hard to find enough generous volunteers to man every crossing on every road all through a rainy night.

In Monkton, Vermont, Jim Andrews, Steve Parren and Chris Slesar, along with the Lewis Creek Association and the Monkton Conservation Commission, spear-headed an effort this past year to do something about the mortality of hundreds of migrating frogs and salamanders. Grants, plus a large number of organizations and citizens, provided the manpower and finances to construct two concrete culverts under a road in a location where the road separates the breeding pools of amphibians from their upland wintering grounds.

In the past, hundreds of migrating amphibians were killed in this location by automobiles during every spring and fall amphibian migration, and it is doubtful whether the population would have been able to sustain itself over time. (In the past month, 673 salamanders and 329 frogs have safely passed through the tunnel.  In addition, a few early migrators (16) have already started coming back up hill.) Hopefully, these will be the first of many such culverts in the Northeast. For further information on the Monkton underpasses, go to:  (photo:  spotted salamander)        

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16 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    That is so awesome! Within a 1/2 a mile from us are quite a few watery, swampy areas…’s sad to see how many frogs & especially painted turtles don’t make it across the road. When in my car and I see a turtle crossing, I put my hazard lites on (park), pick the turtle up and put it across the street…even helped several large snappers this way, by putting them on a towel I keep in my car.

    April 12, 2016 at 7:49 am

    • Diane

      That is a great way to transport the snappers!

      April 12, 2016 at 11:45 am

      • Alice Pratt

        Towel gets very stinky 😝 But worth saving a snapper!

        April 12, 2016 at 11:47 am

  2. Are there migration heping teams in other parts of the state (VT)? How can I find one near me? I tried googling it – no success On Apr 12, 2016 7:16 AM, “Naturally Curious with Mary Holland” wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “Every year in early spring on a rainy night spotted, > blue-spotted, Jefferson and four-toed salamanders, wood frogs, and spring > peepers leave their leaf litter and subterranean winter hibernacula and > migrate to their ancestral breeding pools to mate. Some” >

    April 12, 2016 at 9:00 am

    • I would contact Jim Andrews, head of the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas survey. He is familiar with statewide efforts. You can contact him at

      April 12, 2016 at 9:13 am

  3. timirvin

    So nice to hear a good news story like this

    April 12, 2016 at 9:22 am

  4. Is there anything like this in NH? What a fantastic solution!

    April 12, 2016 at 10:42 am

    • I am told there are underpasses in NH, but I’m not sure if they are for amphibians or wildlife in general…

      April 12, 2016 at 5:33 pm

  5. teachdad46

    Hi Mary, Do we know the exact location of such crossings here in Hartland? If yes, perhaps a ListServ posting would be a quick, easy, and cost effective way of beginning to increase awareness? Chris

    April 12, 2016 at 10:56 am

  6. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature

    I love it when people come together to solve a nature problem that we caused!! This is great.

    April 12, 2016 at 11:10 am

  7. mariagianferrari

    That’s such a perfect solution for all wildlife. Love it!!

    April 12, 2016 at 11:27 am

  8. Diane

    I have salamanders in my yard. Always enjoy finding them under rocks. They don’t have to cross any roads to get to a small creek behind our house. On occasion have come across one in the basement or storm cellar. Unfortunately the basement salamanders are always dead.

    April 12, 2016 at 12:12 pm

  9. Connie lentz

    For several years there have been two similar tunnels in North Amherst, Massachusetts on a road that was seeing increased automotive traffic as there were new housing developments. The area is known as Salamander Crossing. I volunteered a number of times over the years. It was a wondrous experience ti see the creatures making their way down the hill towards the vernal pools and swamps on the other side of the road and always felt like the start of spring to me.

    April 12, 2016 at 1:35 pm

  10. I dislike driving the roads on warm, rainy nights just for this reason. I swerve all over the road like a crazy drunkard trying to avoid those squiggly lines and leaping flashes!

    April 12, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    • We are such birds of a feather. You could be describing me at the wheel!

      April 12, 2016 at 8:35 pm

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