If you think winter in the Hudson Valley is harsh, imagine spending these months underneath a frozen log, practically encased in ice. In New York State, mole salamanders and wood frogs are among some of the species that spend the colder months hibernating while waiting for the spring, their breeding season.
Once early March comes, the temperature begins to rise, and the ground begins to thaw out. Once the air temperature hits around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, any rainy night becomes a swarm of action that many never even see. Coming out of hiding, these amphibians make their way under the cover of darkness to a nearby woodland pool, the rain keeping their sensitive skin moist and able to take in oxygen.
Heading to these temporary pools, many amphibians find themselves on the wrong side of an asphalt road. Due to their slow speed, small size and lack of awareness from drivers, fatalities can be high in areas with heavy amphibian migration and even low-intensity traffic. Efforts have been made in areas like the Hudson Valley to mitigate amphibian fatalities and to help them cross the road, safekeeping an essential link of our local food chain.
As the migration patterns for these amphibians are easy to follow, volunteers working a few hours after dark in a high-risk area can save anywhere from tens to hundreds of these otherwise endangered animals. By midnight, cars are low in frequency and most amphibians are able to cross safely without intervention being needed.
In New Paltz, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hosts a training program and provides resources for locals to take action. The Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings (AM&RC) Project has three goals: locate roads where these migrations take place, record migrations alongside weather and traffic conditions and help them cross these roads.
The DEC offers in-person and virtual training sessions, alongside resources and training modules that act as a self-educating opportunity or a refresher for veteran volunteers. The resources include information sheets, such as identification guides, as well as forms to record and submit data for the project.
While the following is not a replacement for official training or going through the necessary short courses they provide, consider it a basic outline that demonstrates the amount of effort and steps involved to become a volunteer yourself. Before considering joining the cause, read the following go through the DEC’s resources available online.
After watching the modules, printing out field identification guides (use a waterproof sleeve or laminate it if you can, they also give out laminated copies at training sessions) and ensuring you know what you’re looking for and how to record it properly, you still have to find a site. There are two ways to do this: work with an experienced volunteer, or roll your sleeves up and get on Google Maps.
When trying to find your own road with high potential for migration, look for roads with woods on either side; small bodies of water on one side also indicate possible migration. Most importantly, if you do plan to help out this spring, bring adequate lighting and reflective gear.