You may have already heard the spring peepers or wood frogs calling in your backyard. Or perhaps you’ve noticed salamanders crawling over rocks in your local stream. The arrival of spring brings the return of reptiles and amphibians to the Vermont landscape.
The frog calls you hear each spring are part of the animal’s breeding behavior, according to Steve Parren, wildlife diversity program director for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. “Many frogs and salamanders are already well into their breeding season,” said Parren “By late May, we should start seeing turtles crossing the road to build nests in the sandy embankments.”
Amphibians migrate by the thousands each spring in search of breeding pools. This migration can frequently take them across roads and highways, leading to high rates of mortality among some species. Roadkill mortality, along with forest fragmentation and loss of wetland habitat, has contributed to the decline of several of Vermont’s reptile and amphibian species.
To mitigate roadkill mortality, the Fish & Wildlife Department has been collecting data to identify stretches of road that are hotspots for amphibian migrations. Department staff has been working closely with Jim Andrews at the Vermont Reptile & Amphibian Atlas Project and other groups to coordinate volunteers who help move the animals across the road and make drivers aware of these potentially high-mortality sites.
In an effort to allow wildlife to safely cross the road, the Fish & Wildlife Department is also working with VTrans to include culverts and wildlife barriers in road construction plans. “Most amphibian migration takes place over several rainy spring nights,” said Mark Ferguson, nongame biologist for the Fish & Wildlife Department. “On these nights, drivers should slow down on roads near vernal pools and wetlands, or try to use an alternate route if possible.”
Turtle activity peaks from late May through June. At this time of year, drivers are urged to keep an eye out for turtles in the road, particularly when driving near ponds and wetlands. “When you spot a turtle in the road, you may be able to help it across the road if you are in a safe spot to get out of your car,” said Parren. “For a snapping turtle, we recommend pushing the turtle across the road in the direction it was going with an object like a shovel to avoid getting too close to the turtle’s face.”
To report an amphibian or reptile sighting, visit the Vermont Reptile & Amphibian Atlas website at http://community.middlebury.edu/~herpatlas/.