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Salamander Crossing Brigade helps record number of amphibians this year

  • Brett Amy Thelen, science director for the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, holds a spotted salamander which was attempting to cross North Lincoln Road in Keene during a Salamander Crossing Brigade night in April.  Meghan Pierce—

  • Brett Amy Thelen, science director for the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, with volunteer Paige Ells, 8, of Keene during a Salamander Crossing Brigade night on North Lincoln Road in Keene in April.  Meghan Pierce—

  • Brett Amy Thelen, science director for the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, takes a picture of a spotted salamander as volunteer Paige Ells, 8, of Keene looks on during a Salamander Crossing Brigade night on North Lincoln Road in Keene in April.  sTAFF PHOTO BY Meghan Pierce

  • Brett Amy Thelen, science director for the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, holds a spotted salamander which was attempting to cross North Lincoln Road in Keene during a Salamander Crossing Brigade night in April.  Meghan Pierce—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, May 18, 2018

Volunteers and the amphibian count for the spring 2018 Salamander Crossing Brigade program are at an all time high, says Brett Amy Thelen, science director for the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, which runs the program.

This spring nearly 200 Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteers moved a record 7,799 amphibians, of 13 different species, to safety at nearly 40 different crossing sites across the Monadnock Region.

“It was a great season. We had more people and more amphibians counted and crossed to date,” Thelen said. “This has been our biggest year since we started the program in 2007. It’s not to say that we had more amphibians this year, it’s just that we had more people out and helping them.”

The amphibian migrations occur on the first few spring nights of rain and temperatures above 40 degrees, Thelen said. Volunteers only count and help amphibians cross roads from sunset to about 10:30 p.m. on three to four nights each spring. So there are thousands more amphibians coming out of hibernation to breed during the spring. 

Thelen credits the surge in the numbers of volunteers and the amphibian count to the closure of a road in Keene during the crossing brigade nights. 

After a Keene resident voiced concern to city officials, the city agreed to work with the program to close North Lincoln Street this spring on nights the brigade was out. Thelen said the brigade went out a total of four spring nights this year. 

"This was the first year that any roads have been closed for amphibians and it was just that one road in Keene. We have not done that at any other sites,” Thelen said. "It was a pretty big deal for us and I think it went pretty well. … Well over 2,000 animals benefited from the road closures.”

Not only did the amphibians benefit from the road closures, but families did as well, she said. Keene is where the spike in volunteers came from as well, Thelen said. 

The Keene road closure saw about 100 volunteers over those four nights, she said. 

“We had a lot of families that came out with young kids that would not have if this road had not been closed," Thelen said. “In my mind it was a great success and I'm hoping the city will make it an annual event.”

Thelen said there are other amphibian crossings across the region that would lend themselves to a road closure for a few spring nights because of an obvious detour road, but said she will leave it to residents of those towns to bring a proposed closure to town officials.

Thelen said she is happy to attend meetings to provide information on the program, but said any request to close a road for amphibian night crossings should be brought forward by residents. 

“It's my inclination is that it should be citizen-led,” Thelen said. “I think it's more impactful if people in the community are bringing it forward.