How did the spotted salamanders cross the road? Sounds like a bad joke but they crossed it because the road was closed to help their annual migration.
Foxwoods Human Resources Department recently released an internal press release that Mushee Machaug Road would be closed on rainy nights in March to allow the salamanders passing across this connector road.
According to The Thames River Times, the salamanders are black with bright yellow spots running in two uneven lines down their backs.
For many years, the Mashantucket Pequot Natural Resources Protection Department, MPNRPD, assists in this migration which has also known to take place on the heavily-traveled road of Pequot Trail.
In 2008, about 60 salamanders migrated across Pequot Trail.
The salamanders typically wait to migrate until early spring when they can move above ground and out of water for hours without the threat of dehydration.
“They live part of the year in the uplands in tiny shrew tunnels or tone tunnels,” Shelly Spohr of MPNRPD told the Thames River Times, “and then every spring they come down to the vernal pools to reproduce. As soon as they’re done laying their eggs, they go back into the uplands.”
Spohr and other volunteers walk up and down the road during the migration to carry the salamanders off the road and closer to their breeding grounds.
While migration usually only lasts a few nights since salamanders travel only about a fifth of a mile, wet weather may cause the migration to take as long as a week or two.
While some may not believe salamanders are important, Spohr disagreed stating, “From an ecological perspective, they are really important in the food chain. For instance, there is a tiny salamander called a red-back salamander, and I’ve read some studies that say that biomass-wise, there are more red-back salamanders than any other species in an acre of New England forest. So if you piled all of them up they would outweigh any species of mammal, bird, reptile – anything. Most people just don’t know or aren’t aware of how important they are in the whole food chain.”
Always looking for volunteers, Spohr said, “Just from the human side of it I think people think it’s really exciting to see all these animals just mass-migrating across the road that normally they would never see at any other time during the year. A lot of people don’t even know these things are out there.”
According to the Foxwoods Human Resources Press Release, Mushee Machaug Road provides access from the fifth level of the Great Cedar Parking Garage to the Public Safety Building and Museum area.
If the road is closed, the press release stated that the Transportation Department will setup a message board at the corner of Pequot Trail and Route 214 to inform drivers of the closure.
Foxwoods Human Resources Press Release, 3/11/09.