Salisbury’s pesticide-free amphibian crossing site

This last weekend was good for amphibians in the Champlain Valley. Rain after dark with warm temperatures brought the early breeding frogs and salamanders above ground and coaxed them downhill toward breeding areas. 

One of the 340 red-backed salamanders found crossing Morgan Road on Friday night.

Friday was a big night for little salamanders at the Morgan Road crossing in Salisbury. There was light rain for an hour after dark and temperatures in the high 50s F. Between 9:30 and 10:30 PM almost 600 salamanders were counted crossing a 900 foot long stretch of road. Most of those (562) were two small species: red-backed salamander and four-toed salamander. The Wild Middlebury Project, an environmental conservation club at Middlebury College, was there in force counting and helping them across the road.

The Wild Middlebury Project walked the stretch of road twice (once up and back) counting every amphibian they encountered and moving them across the road (so they weren’t counted twice).

Here are the counts:

  • 340 red-backed salamanders
  • 222 four-toed salamanders
  • 20 blue-spotted salamanders
  • 13 spotted salamanders
  • 3 eastern red-spotted newts (red eft)
  • 14 spring peepers
  • 14 wood frogs
One of the 13 spotted salamanders found on Friday.

Only two or three vehicles drove along the stretch of road during the survey, but there were nonetheless quite a few dead amphibians found:

  • 3 four-toed salamanders
  • 2 blue spotted salamanders
  • 10 red-backed salamanders
  • 4 wood frogs
  • 3 spring peepers
A blue-spotted salamander on the road. On March 21 (three weeks earlier) hundreds of blue-spotted salamanders probably crossed this road on a wet night with temperatures in the high 30s F. In one pass of the crossing site that night, 24 blue-spotted salamanders were counted, and it continued to rain for hours afterwards.

It’s good to know that there will be no pesticide spraying along this section of the road this summer. The landowner on one side of the road has opted out of the spraying to kill mosquitoes that would otherwise happen. The BLSG Insect Control District will start installing the start/stop markers soon before the busy spraying season starts, so now is a good time to opt out your property. Information about opting out is here:

One of the 14 wood frogs that were counted making it successfully across the road.

Thanks to The Wild Middlebury Project for mastering the amphibian identification and counting skills and for sharing their data.

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