COVID-19 UPDATE: The Harris Center has canceled or postponed all in-person programs and events through at least June 15. The Harris Center building will also be closed to visitors until June 15. Our trails and grounds remain open.

Salamander Season in the Age of COVID-19

March 15, 2020
A spotted salamander makes its way across North Lincoln Street in Keene. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Things Are Different This Year…

We are planning for a significantly scaled-down version of the Salamander Crossing Brigades this year, as it’s not safe for people to be gathering in groups, even for the noble purpose of saving salamanders. It’s hard to maintain social distance when everyone wants to get a close look at a spottie! Here’s what you need to know.
updated 3/27/20

Volunteer Trainings

All volunteer trainings have been canceled for 2020. If you were hoping to join the Crossing Brigades for the first time, please wait until next year — when you can be properly trained in how to stay safe on the roads.

Communications

We will be taking a quieter approach to salamander communications this year. It has been our observation that, when we send salamander forecasts and field reports to our Salamander Crossing Brigade email list, volunteers come out in droves to help our four-legged friends. In normal years, this is in fact our goal. However, this is not a normal year, and we cannot in good conscience encourage people to gather together in groups — even for salamanders — until the threat of COVID-19 has passed. As a result, we will be maintaining our online salamander forecast and field reports for experienced volunteers who tend to be the only ones at their sites or are willing to comply with social distancing practices (more on that below), but we will not be sharing regular updates via email or Facebook this season.

Big Nights

We must take social distancing seriously, even at amphibian crossings. Many people live too far from our ten well-established crossing sites to join those larger efforts, and so have found their own smaller sites, closer to home. If the only people at any given crossing site are members of your own household, then you may continue as you always have — taking great care to stay visible and alert to passing cars. You can submit your amphibian counts and photos here.

However, if you are at a crossing site with people who do not share a home with you, you must keep six feet away from other volunteers at all times. (This means no gathering together to admire salamanders!) If there are ten or more people at a crossing site when you arrive, head home or go to a different site. In addition, if you or anyone in your household has been experiencing flu-like symptoms, do not go to a salamander crossing.

Road Closures

We have made the difficult decision not to move forward with amphibian road closures in Keene this year. In past springs we’ve had up to 50 people a night visit North Lincoln Street to witness the spectacle of the amphibian migration. Crowds of any size, even outdoors, are simply not safe this year — and with the stay-at-home order and banning of gatherings of more than 10 people, this is what we must do. We care about protecting salamanders, but we care about protecting people, too. If all goes well, the family-friendly frog fest vibe will return to North Lincoln Street in 2021, and we hope to move forward with our pilot Jordan Road closures then as well.

The Silver Lining

The good news is that vehicle traffic — and, hopefully, roadkill — ought to be much reduced on amphibian migration nights this spring, as far fewer cars will be out and about, especially in the rain. In other words: the salamanders might not need much help this year!

Contact Us

For more information about the Salamander Crossing Brigades or our response to COVID-19, please contact Brett Amy Thelen by email.