Big Night for Amphibians

Posted by on Apr 6, 2014 in spring, Unmowed Blog, wildlife | 1 comment

It’s still a little chilly, but soon will come a night of warm spring rain. And if you’re driving after dark, you know what that means—hordes of pesky little frogs hopping across the road.

Where are they going? Why so many? Are they trying to commit suicide?

Frogs, toads and salamanders breed in the spring. They all get together in the same spot, usually a small pond, and then the males show off and try to attract females. It’s kind of like a singles bar.red eft salamander wells horton

So if it’s a damp night and the temperature is about 40 degrees or so, tens of thousands of frogs and salamanders are sharing the roads with us. Amphibian fans call it a Big Night.

It’s a migration, just like geese flying north in the spring. But instead of migrating thousands of miles, these little guys travel a quarter of a mile or so. That’s a long way, though, if your legs are 1/16th of an inch long.

Sadly, many migration pathways cross roads, or driveways. And a critter with tiny legs moves verrrry slowly. The bigger frogs can hop across faster, but sometimes they just sit there maddeningly staring into space, and get squished. Amphibians are cold-blooded, so on a chilly night, fresh out of hibernation, they move slowly.

We don’t get a chance to observe the miniature amphibian parade as our gigantic cars whiz by them. Wood frogs are cute little creatures with a black mask like a raccoon over their face. Spring peepers are the size of your thumbnail. A spotted salamander is a gorgeous thing, like a piece of jewelry—jet black with golden spots. They can live for fifteen or twenty years.

I hate to think of it. A salamander crosses the road one tiny step at a time, slowly toiling back to the pool he’s visited for years, and then–my tire obliterates him.

So if you’re out late on a wet night in spring, please drive even more carefully than usual. You’re not the only one having a Big Night.

Thank to Wells Horton for the beautiful photo of a red eft.

 

One Comment

  1. I’ll try to stay home during this courting season. Amazing!

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