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DEC Contact: Lori Severino (518) 402-8000

March 23, 2023


Volunteers Prepare to Document and Assist Salamanders and Frogs during Annual Breeding Migrations in Hudson Valley

Throughout the Hudson Valley, community volunteers are getting out their flashlights, reflective safety vests, and raingear in anticipation of annual amphibian breeding migrations, which typically begin in March, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. Volunteers will document the migration and help salamanders and frogs as part of DEC’s annual Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings Project.

“The Hudson Valley is home to remarkable amphibian diversity and during this time of year, road mortality poses a significant threat to salamanders and frogs migrating from forests to vernal pools for breeding,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC is grateful to the dedicated volunteers ready to assist amphibians attempting road crossings during their annual migrations. I encourage all New Yorkers and visitors traveling the state’s roads to be on the lookout for these vulnerable amphibians and the dedicated volunteers keeping them safe.”

The Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings (AM&RC) Project was initiated by DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program and Cornell University to raise awareness about critical amphibian habitat, engage volunteers to help collect data on the annual migration, and reduce amphibian road mortality. More than 1,000 volunteers have participated in the effort since 2009, helping to move an estimated 32,565 salamanders, frogs, and toads safely across roads.

As temperatures rise and snow melts in the coming weeks, species like wood frog (Lithobates sylvatica), spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), and Jefferson-blue spotted salamander complex (Ambystoma jeffersonianum x laterale) will emerge from underground winter shelters in the forest and head to vernal pools for breeding. Vernal pools are small, temporary wetlands that are critical breeding habitat for these amphibians. The pools hold water until summer, so the adult amphibians must gather, breed, and deposit eggs early enough to ensure their aquatic young can hatch, grow, and leave the pools before they dry up.

The timing of migration is weather-dependent with concentrated activity on the first rainy nights of late winter and early spring, after the ground has thawed and night air temperatures remain above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The timing of migration varies throughout the Hudson River estuary watershed, but when weather conditions are just right, there can be explosive "big night" migrations with hundreds of amphibians on the move. On their journeys between forest habitat and breeding pools, these amphibians often need to cross roads, where mortality can be high even when traffic is low.

Project volunteers document road locations where they observe migrations in the Hudson Valley, record weather and traffic conditions, and identify and count the amphibians on the move. Volunteers also carefully help the amphibians to safely cross roads. Since the project started, volunteers have documented 20 species and counted 39,300 live amphibians, as well as nearly 16,600 migrating amphibians killed by passing vehicles. Species reported most frequently during migration nights include spotted salamander, wood frog, and spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer). To a lesser degree, volunteers have also observed Jefferson-blue spotted salamander complex and four-toed salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum), species of conservation concern in New York.

Safety is paramount, and project volunteers are advised to take all necessary precautions. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to wear reflective safety vests and headlamps to increase visibility on dark roads, and should not interfere with passing vehicles. Amphibian safety is also important, and frogs and salamanders should be handled carefully with clean hands, free of hand sanitizer, lotion, and other substances that can be toxic to amphibians’ porous skin.

With such a large geographic area to cover, the AM&RC Project benefits greatly from the support of local partners who assist with coordinating volunteers in their communities. This year, partners include Climate Smart Rhinebeck, Columbia Land Conservancy, Hudson Highlands Land Trust, Rensselaer Plateau Alliance, Saw Kill Watershed Community, Teatown Lake Reservation, Town of Bedford Conservation Board, and Town of Pound Ridge Conservation Board.

For more information, including a short video about amphibian migrations, visit DEC’s website. DEC held in-person and virtual trainings for volunteers in February with 270 participants. New Yorkers interested in volunteering to participate in this annual event are encouraged to watch a series of training videos on YouTube and read the Volunteer HandbookIn addition, potential volunteers can access a recording of the training and use materials available on the project website to learn more. Anyone interested in receiving project updates and news about the migration can subscribe to the project e-newsletter through DEC Delivers.

DEC supports programs like the Amphibian Migration and Road Crossings Project to connect people to nature; educate about the importance of wetlands and healthy, connected forests; and encourage proactive conservation planning that prevents habitat fragmentation. Forests are carbon storage and sequestration powerhouses, making them an invaluable tool in New York’s nation-leading fight against climate change. The program is also critical for maintaining the state’s rich diversity of plants and animals, and especially the vernal pool breeding amphibians that are of conservation concern throughout their Northeast range.

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


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