Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Amphibians: A Conservation Moment

A©2002 Terry Gampper, Scaley Chronicles, 06/16/02


The following is from a series of articles Terry rights for the Scaley Chronicles, a newsletter for herpers on AOL. You will find some of his amphibian care articles on AOL and in the Amphibians section here at my site.

Why protect amphibians?
Amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts) are wonderful animals -- you can sit back and enjoy listening to their varied calls. In many places you can hear a symphony of frog voices around a pond during a warm spring evening. Because of their relatively harmless nature, they make exciting educational tools for children. They can be easily held and you can get a really close look at them. By holding and observing these curious creatures, there is no doubt you will learn to appreciate these special animals. All amphibians are carnivores (meat-eaters). They will provide pest control for your gardens by eating grubs, slugs, ants, flies, mosquitoes and their larvae worms, many other insects, and all kinds of small invertebrates (creatures without backbones). Also, amphibians are excellent indicators of environmental quality.

Yes, most amphibians do migrate. They will travel from a forested area to their breeding ponds. Sometimes, their migration route takes them over roads, railroad tracks and other obstacles. These migrations are often spectacular, involving hundreds or even thousands of individuals. They move on warm, rainy nights when the moon is obscured. Female frogs and toads are attracted to the male's call. Many species are loyal to a particular body of water and will return to that place every year. During the fall, the amphibians will leave for higher, drier ground to spend the winter using the same migration routes. As a result, many individuals are killed while crossing busy roads. Some amphibian populations will migrate 4 miles or more between the breeding pond and their overwintering sites.

One of the ways conservation groups are protecting amphibians is the construction of "toad tunnels." Unfortunately, a high incidence of mortality among migrating amphibians has a dramatic effect on overall species survival. An effective amphibian tunnel system can reduce the number of traffic related deaths by nearly 100%. Will this fact alone be enough to persuade people to take a more active role in conservation efforts? If this doesn't motivate people, maybe the fact that many frog and toad carcasses on the roads will present a serious traffic hazard, imagine those slippery bodies -- do you like driving on ice? There are reasons why these tunnels are referred to as "toad tunnels." Toads are:

(1) slower than frogs and salamanders;

(2) they often move in large numbers and concentrations compared to other species and are thus killed in large numbers; and

(3) research suggests that certain species of toads are very faithful to the breeding ponds where they were born, and return year after year, keeping the same migration route.

Before building "toad tunnels", one has to consider several factors:

  • size of amphibian population;
  • direction of migration;
  • most intensively used routes;
  • mortality rate;
  • amount of traffic on the road;
  • width and nature of the road; and
  • cost factors and feasibility in constructing the tunnel under existing roadbeds.

Currently "toad tunnels" are being used with great success in the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and the states of Texas, Massachusetts, California, Oregon and Florida. What can you do as an individual or member of a conservation/herpetological group can do to protect reptiles and amphibians? Don' t miss my next Conservation Moment!

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