Solving Problems with Nature - Naturally
ERIC P. ORFF
Certified Wildlife Biologist
Wildlife Author - Wildlife Lecturer -
Non-Lethal Control of Bats since 1983
New Hampshire Nature Notes by Eric Orff
Thursday 04/12/2012 Rain at last at night. Salamanders on the move
Finally, finally last night a little after 10 PM I heard the patter of rain on my deck roof as I let the dog in. I had ben watching the TV radar for signs of rain through the evening. We had spot showers through the evening but the roads were bone dry when I returned from Concord about 9 PM. How I have been waiting and waiting for rain after dark to do my annual yellow spotted salamander census. One I started probably a dozen years ago or more.
So I quickly readied myself for a drive in the rain. Past experience has shown me that the yellow spotted salamanders are all lined up to move once the rain starts. I remember one night nearly two dozen were lined up like Civil War solders as they marched across the road as it began to pour. Since we have had little, if any, rain after dark this spring I was pretty sure the salamanders, toads and frogs, would be on the move at first rain.
And so it was, sort of. Not the legions of salamanders that I have counted in years past though. My three mile route takes me up the road I live on a half mile to the four corners. Then up New Rye Road close to a mile to Swamp Road. Then East on Swamp Road to Mountain View Road where I turn around and count back. Depending on the number of salamanders, toads and frogs I move out of the road it typically takes me 40 minutes to a little over an hour.
Right off I knew that it would not be a great night. In the half mile stretch of the corner, not one salamander, and only two toads. Bad luck started right off with one car coming up behind me and another coming down the road. It is amazing how many small critters can be killed with a single car passing at these critical; times. So I guess the good luck was there were no salamanders to be squished. Typically I will get at least three or four from my house to the corner. In fact I took my spot light and checked my driveway before backing out of the garage as there often are at least a toad or two in my driveway and sometimes a salamander.
Going up New Rye Hill continued my disappointment for not a salamander, toad or frog was spotted even as it began to pour ever harder. This was perfect "salamander conditions".
Things finally picked up on Swamp Road at the swamp crossing. My first yellow spotted salamander of the year! (Photo above) Followed by a dead one and a dead toad. This stretch of road is usually the best from there to my turn around. Some nights I have counted 50 salamanders. But it wasn't to be last night. My total was five live and four dead salamanders. Only one car passed me by, which was a good thing. But this stretch gave me a mortality rate of close to fifty percent by 11 PM. I saw only two spring peepers, one by the swamp and one right in front of my house. A very poor showing by them. I guess most had already moved as they have been calling going on three weeks now. Also two of the five live salamanders were headed back into the woods, North of Swamp Road, which leads me to believe they had already spawned. Early migration is always South across the road. So maybe it did rain after dark three weeks ago and some of them already moved into their vernal pools. But the last few years since a half dozen new homes were built along the most productive stretch of this road my count has spiraled down. It is not just the fact that the houses displaced the salamander habitat, but just one house adds and additional eight vehicle trips a day on average. Add some of those trips on a rainy night and I think they are wiping this near road population out. Lets not forget that some of these salamanders are well into their teen years. They were hatched long before there was much traffic. And now they lay crushed on the road. I am calculating the impacts of these new houses over time.
The sight of so many crushed beautiful animals gets to me. This on top of my stop on Route 4 Tuesday at the Epsom-Chichester line where a large, I guess male, bobcat had just been hit at 10 AM. It was still alive when I stopped as I watched such a beautiful animal gasp for air with blood streaming from its nose and mouth. We humans just done get the impacts of our daily lives on wildlife. So much is just ground up beneath our ever busy lives. At least hunters, fishermen and trappers understand the value of the lives they take for the most part I have learned over the years. So many of us take no responsibility for the impacts our lives have on nature.
2012-04-05 On the cusp of mid spring
2012-05-04 Rain, rain go away.
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