Tis the Season for Vernal Pools

Drive Slowly! Frogs, Toads and Salamanders on the Hop

Vernal Pool in West Chesterfield, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

‘Tis the season for amphibians on the move, especially on warm, rainy nights. Salamanders, spring peepers, wood frogs, and toads will be hopping and crawling across our roadways on warm wet nights, heading to vernal pools and other wetlands to mate and lay their eggs. Reports of amphibians chorusing and on the move have already come in to Division of Fisheries and Wildlife during the heavy rains of March.

The height of spring amphibian activity comes during rainy nights when spring peepers are heard calling. Thousands of frogs, salamanders, and toads are moving across roadways on warm rainy nights, and many are squashed by vehicles traveling after dark. Some local communities and conservation groups host salamander crossings where traffic is slowed to allow for safe progress of amphibians. Other local conservation groups meet at known “Big Night” crossings to share this seasonal phenomenon with the public or look for new road crossings to document the presence of nearby vernal pools. Consider doing your daily errands before dark or during dry evenings as a way to reduce amphibian traffic mortality.

Vernal Pool in West Chesterfield, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Vernal pools are unique wildlife habitats best known for the amphibians and invertebrate animals that use the pools to breed. Also known as ephemeral pools, autumnal pools, and temporary woodland ponds, vernal pools typically fill with water in the autumn or winter due to rising ground water and rainfall and remain full through the spring and into summer. Vernal pools dry completely by the middle or end of summer each year, or at least every few years. Occasional drying prevents fish that eat eggs or tadpoles from establishing permanent populations. Many amphibian and invertebrate species rely on this unique breeding habitat free of fish predators.

Find out much more about what vernal pools are, what they look like, and what creatures use them in Massachusetts! Consider ordering a Field Guide to the Animals of Vernal Pools, published by the Division’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program and the Vernal Pool Association. Beautiful photographs and descriptive text are combined to aid in the identification and study of amphibians, reptiles and many invertebrates. The Field Guide may be ordered by calling the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program at (508) 389-6360. Visit the Division’s website at www.mass.gov/masswildlife and click on the Natural Heritage button for other information about ways to certify and protect vernal pools. Another useful website with information on vernal pools, crossing signs, and other educational materials can be found at the Vernal Pool Association at www.vernalpool.org.

Reprinted with permission from MassLand (2010)

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