Amphibian and Reptile Monitoring

Under the lead of Tom Mann at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and with the support of the National Park Service, I monitored movement of amphibians across the Natchez Trace Parkway. We collected animals from the road and moved them to safety, checked for elastomer tags applied by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), identified sex, age, and reproductive status. Drift fences were used to monitor Webster’s salamander (Plethodon websteri) populations, a state-imperiled species. Several species of salamanders and frogs are forced to cross the Natchez Trace Parkway twice a year to be able to breed. With a speed limit of 50 mph, most motorists can’t slow down in time to avoid killing thousands of amphibians every year if they even see them. Since most large movement of these animals occurs on dark, rainy nights, it is even more dangerous. We would go out to the Natchez Trace Parkway on such nights with signs and flashing lights to slow down motorists and quickly move crossing amphibians in the direction they are heading. Despite our efforts, several causalities still occurred due to the high volume of vehicular traffic on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The beautiful spotted pattern of the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) doesn’t help them avoid being hit by vehicles. Note the elastomer tags that USGS has implanted in the salamanders for monitoring individuals over several years. These tags are harmless to the animals.

Adult spotted salamanders ready to breed.

Example of a bucket we use to transport salamanders. Sometimes there will be 15 crossing the road at once. Each animal is recorded and released in the direction they were heading but out of danger.

Some of the other amphibian species we help on the Natchez Trace Parkway

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