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Amphibian Breeding Migrations – Protecting a Spectacular Rite of Spring – Part 2

American Green Tree frog with distended vocal sacIn Part I of this article I wrote about the huge numbers of Spotted Salamanders, Spring Peepers, Tiger Salamanders, Wood Frogs and other amphibians that are right now (March/April, 2010) approaching and entering their breeding ponds.  Today I’ll highlight some important programs that you can become involved in if you wish to observe and help protect this wonderful yearly phenomenon.

A Vital but Over-looked Amphibian Habitat

The species mentioned above, and others such as Marbled Salamanders, most Treefrogs and Toads, and many Newts, deposit their eggs in temporary pools of water that form in late winter and dry out by mid-summer.  By avoiding permanent bodies of water, they remove the threat of fish predation upon themselves and their eggs and young.

Until recently, these watery retreats, being quite small and dry for much of the year, were not recognized as important amphibian habitat.  Many were paved over during construction projects; those located near roads were often rendered uninhabitable by salt and chemical runoff.  Invertebrates unique to vernal ponds, such as Fairy Shrimp, also suffered.

Conservation Projects-Volunteers Needed!

Marbled SalamanderThings are slowly changing for the better, especially as regards protecting migrating amphibians as they cross roads to reach their breeding sites.  Road closures are becoming more common – this spring, certain roads in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area will be closed for the 8th consecutive year to allow amphibians to cross (please see below).

Our British amphibian cohorts have a longer history of related activities.  The Toads on Roads Program, sponsored by the group Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, has been rescuing road-bound European Toads for over 25 years – with some volunteers having been involved for that entire period!  This year they expect to assist over 40,000 toads at 758 crossing points.

Those interested in amphibian conservation can help out at any time of the year by volunteering in Project Frogwatch or the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program.  Deformed amphibians can be reported to the US Department of the Interior.

Summer Breeders

Don’t fret if you miss the spring breeders – American Bullfrog males battle for breeding rights (like scaled down Sumo wrestlers!) throughout the spring and summer; others, such as Spadefoot Toads, may breed after almost any summer rain.



Further Reading

You can read about the Delaware Water Gap road closures and the animals they are intended top benefit in this Pocono Record Article.

Marbled Salamander with distended vocal sac image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Patrick Coin

American Green Tree frog with distended vocal sac image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Clinton & Charles Robertson

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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