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For Release: Tuesday, March 10, 2020

DEC and Volunteers Prepare for Annual Salamander and Frog Migration

Hudson Valley Volunteers Assist Amphibians with Road Crossings During Annual Breeding Migrations to Woodland Pools

Community volunteers throughout the Hudson Valley are getting out their flashlights, reflective vests, and raingear in anticipation of annual breeding migrations of salamanders and frogs, which typically begin in mid-March, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. The volunteers will document their observations as part of DEC's Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings Project, coordinated by the Hudson River Estuary Program and Cornell University.

"Amphibians contribute to a healthy, functioning ecosystem and during this time of year, road mortality poses a significant threat to New York's salamanders, frogs, and toads," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "DEC is grateful to the many volunteers who venture out each year to help protect the Hudson Valley's amphibians by assisting these creatures to safely cross the road and mitigate the impacts of forest habitat fragmentation. I encourage all New Yorkers and visitors traveling the state's roads to be on the lookout for these amphibians and the dedicated volunteers helping these creatures."

This winter's mild temperatures spurred an early pulse of migration on February 25 in the mid- and lower-Hudson Valley, where rain and evening temperatures lured wood frogs out of the forest on their way to woodland pools for breeding. In the Hudson Valley, migrations usually occur on rainy nights in mid-March to mid-April, after the ground has thawed and night air temperatures remain above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. When these conditions align just so, New York can experience explosive "big night" migrations, with hundreds of amphibians on the move.

In the coming weeks, as temperatures rise, migrations will continue on rainy nights. Along with the wood frog, forest species like spotted salamanders and the Jefferson-blue spotted salamander complex will leave their underground winter shelters and walk to woodland pools for breeding. Woodland pools are small, temporary wetlands in the forest that are critical breeding habitat for this group of amphibians. Some species may travel a half-mile to their breeding habitat, often crossing roads on their way.

Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings Project volunteers document Hudson Valley locations where roads bisect migration pathways, record weather and traffic conditions, and identify and count the amphibians on the move. Volunteers also carefully help the amphibians to safely cross roads. DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program and partners trained 128 volunteers in February, but anyone can train themselves by using materials on the project webpage.

Now in its 12th year, 470 project volunteers have counted 20 species of amphibians and helped more than 14,000 cross roads. Species reported most frequently during migration nights include spotted salamander, spring peeper, and wood frog. To a lesser degree, volunteers have also observed Jefferson-blue spotted salamander complex and four-toed salamander, species of greatest conservation need in New York, as well as more common species like American toad and redback salamander.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's proposed $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act seeks to increase biodiversity, enhance the health of our fish and wildlife, improve water quality, preserve significant natural buffers to prevent pollution, and generate countless other benefits to ecosystems and economies in every corner of New York. If the Environmental Bond Act advances, DEC would build on programs like the Amphibian Migration and Road Crossings Project to educate people about the importance of wetlands and healthy, connected forests, and encourage proactive conservation planning. These habitats are carbon storage powerhouses, making them an invaluable tool in New York's nation-leading fight against climate change.

Drivers are encouraged to proceed with caution or avoid travel on the first warm, rainy evenings of the season. Amphibians come out after nightfall and are slow moving; mortality can be high even on low-traffic roads. Since the project started in 2009, volunteers have counted almost 18,000 live amphibians and 7,000 migrating amphibians killed by passing vehicles. For more information, including a short video about amphibian migrations, visit DEC's website.

Project volunteers are encouraged to use the hashtag #amphibianmigrationny in their photos and posts on social media.

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