It’s that time of year again. Slowly we’re moving out of winter, time has skipped ahead, the sun is warm in the late afternoon and doesn’t set until after diner has been cleared from the table, staying a little later each evening. We’re planning gardens and vacations and projects as we shake of our winter blues.
By now we’ve seen some of the earliest signs of spring- the skunk cabbages broke the soil around Valentine’s Day, the snow drops flowered days before our last snow, the red-winged blackbirds soon after. There are crocus and daffodils in many yards, the forsythia are flowering, and if you live in the countryside you have likely heard the chorus of spring peepers who have emerged from their wintry hiding places.
Of all the signs that we look for as spring brightens winters shadow, it’s the little guys, the amphibians that we overlook the most if we even notice them at all. For me, hearing the first of the spring peepers, off in the distance was magical. It meant that the school year was nearly over and summer right around the corner. It meant more hours to play and that soon it would be warm enough to sleep with a window open and I could listen to those mysterious little frogs as I drifted off to sleep.
Early spring is a serious time in the amphibian life cycle. As winter thaws and springs rains saturate the ground, the vernal pools form and these are prime places for amphibians to breed and lay eggs. Unlike ponds and streams, which amphibians also use, these pools are often protected from predators like fish and birds. Once they form, the race is on to breed, lay eggs, and have the next generation develop before these places all dry up in the summer heat.
To get to their breeding places many frogs, toads, and salamanders must travel, often crossing our busy roads. Many species of amphibians are becoming endangered and need our help getting to their destinations so that they can survive and produce the next generation. There are many things you can do help.
- Take care in driving. These are small creatures and hard to see, but if you do catch a glimpse, please do your best to avoid them. If you have the time, stop and help them along and out of the road. Always move them into the direction they were heading, it’s where their internal compass is telling them to go!
- It can end up being a rewarding venture, especially if you have children. Most children love finding frogs and there is always something magical about salamanders. Use it as a teaching opportunity, even if you know nothing about the creatures you’ve found a spark is bound to be ignited in a young mind and it won’t be long before they know more about what you find than you do. Also, by stopping and helping these guys out of the road, you teach your children to care and become stewards of the world they are inheriting!
- Get your community involved. Talk to neighbors or local authorities about creating amphibian safe zones in places where there is heavy amphibian traffic. If you notice that a certain area is a high traffic amphibian crossing, bring it to the community’s attention. Look to what other communities have done and see what model works for yours.
- Remember to be safe! Protect yourself while protecting others, dress in bright or reflective clothes and carry a flashlight so that motorist can see you.