River Road will close to protect breeding amphibians

Let 'em cross: Warm temps come early, a signal to wildlife that spring is near

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  • The spotted salamander

  • The spotted salamander

A difficult journey

Spring is a time when pond-breeding amphibians within temperate areas return to breeding sites. Although they do not migrate as far as birds and mammals, amphibians often have to traverse difficult terrain, such as dense scrub or long grass, and they may have few distinctive visual cues. Individual amphibians have been observed to return to the same breeding site year after year, which demonstrates an ability to use external cues to navigate successfully back to their breeding ponds.
After leaving breeding ponds in the summer or autumn, amphibians will often travel considerable distances away from breeding ponds, which may take many months. For example, the common toad may migrate as far as five kilometers from breeding sites. Research has shown that amphibians probably use a range of methods to navigate which may include visual, olfactory, auditory, celestial, lunar and magnetic cues. However, not all species can use all techniques. For example, some species are able to use magnetic cues, while others are not.
There is increasing evidence that the moon may play a role in navigation as large spawning events of common frogs and toads are more frequent around the full moon.
Source: Froglife: froglife.org

— Motorists can expect River Road within Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to be closed on several evenings over the next few weeks to protect breeding amphibians.

The closures depend on the weather and may come earlier than usual this season, as the region has seen a relatively mild winter. Lack of snow cover on the ground and few snaps of consistently warm temperatures mean that the ground is no longer frozen — a trigger to wildlife that spring is near.

Each year the National Park Service takes steps to protect migrating amphibians by closing River Road in Middle Smithfield Township between park headquarters and Hialeah Picnic Area on several mild, rainy nights from March to mid-April. This closure allows vulnerable amphibians to crawl or hop from distances of a few hundred feet to sometimes more than a quarter mile, to moist breeding pools without the risk of being crushed by vehicle tires.

The trigger for the road closures will be forecasts calling for evening rain with mild temperatures — usually in the 50s. Since the amphibians are active principally at night and have completed their treks by dawn, the road will be closed at approximately 4 p.m. and will remain closed until approximately 6:30 a.m.

For more information on Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area or updates on road closures call park headquarters at 570-426-2452, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., or visit nps.gov/dewa.

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