Spring is always a special time in New England, as their amphibious species begin a marathon migration to the vernal pools to breed. The migration is a spectacular sight, with frogs, toads and salamanders all racing against mother nature to make it to the pools in time for their offspring to hatch and grow legs before the pools dry up. Complicating the migration, is the fact that spring came a little late this year. What can New Englanders do to help things run smoothly? Stay off the roads on rainy spring nights.
“If you can get that gallon of milk on the way home from work and avoid driving when rain is predicted after dark, that’s the best thing — to stay off the road if you can,” said Eric Orff, a wildlife biologist with the National Wildlife Federation. “If you must drive when it’s raining at night, slow down. Slow way down, and think ‘frog.'”
The reason for the pleas to drive carefully is that the migration begins in earnest on rainy nights once the temperature climbs into the 40s and 50s, which is only now happening with any regularity. It typically happens about two weeks earlier, but spring has come late for most of the eastern half of the country. That’s bad news for amphibians: Though spring was late, summer will likely wait for no one. If they can’t breed, lay eggs and hatch their young before the vernal pools (temporary pools created by snow melt) dry up in the summer heat, their numbers could suffer massive losses.
Given that the climate is changing so that New England experiences hotter, dryer summers, it’s even more imperative that the critters get to where they’re going in a timely fashion.
New Hampshire in particular is home to five species that depend entirely on the vernal pools for reproduction: The wood frog and four types of salamanders, one of which is endangered. All of them, says the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, are important parts of the ecosystem. Salamanders like to munch on mosquito larvae, for instance, while frogs provide a valuable food source for larger predators.
Aside from avoiding driving in the rain when possible, authorities say there’s another small way you can help: Get out in nature, and report any frog or salamander sightings to local game wardens. Any information conservationists have that help them map the migration is helpful.