Volunteers Aid Salamander Migration in Albemarle County

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Volunteers are helping salamanders survive a busy road Volunteers are helping salamanders survive a busy road
Devin Floyd, who's been helping the salamanders Devin Floyd, who's been helping the salamanders
Volunteers are working to save dozens of salamanders Volunteers are working to save dozens of salamanders

A mass migration of some slithery amphibians is under way in Albemarle County, and a group of volunteers is out in full force to help them survive crossing a busy street.

Once a year, over the span of a couple of warm, wet nights hundreds of spotted salamanders make the trek across Rio Mills and Polo Grounds Road in Albemarle County.

“Last night the salamanders were out, they were migrating from the upland forest on one side of the road, crossing, entering the flood plain from the other side of the road, they were very active,” says Devin Floyd, who's with the Center for Urban Habitats.

For the last two nights, Floyd and a group of volunteers have blocked off the road to save dozens of them.

"We put flares at each side of the road and the volunteers are organized that we do transect walks, we walk up and down the hundred yard corridor with headlamps on and we just look for salamanders that are trying to cross the road,” says Floyd. “If someone sees it, they pick it up and carry it across and let it go on the other side."

More than half of the salamanders are killed by cars on their journey to the other side.

"If it’s rainy, it’s foggy, not only are you not going to feel them, but you're not going to see them," says Floyd.

But Floyd's goal is to save as many as he possibly can.

“They stay in the ground all year, they only come out at night to migrate for breeding reasons,” says Floyd. “They go down to vernal pools to breed so they really go unseen unless a child or a naturalist is outside flipping rocks.”

Volunteers young and old say saving the salamanders reminds them that there's still good in the world.

"Today you hear about all this just depressing things and you come out here and there’s so many people, like optimistic people helping the planet and it’s a really good thing," says Jess Vonn, a volunteer.

And for some good news for the salamanders, Riverbend Development - which owns the land on the side of the road where the salamanders are crossing from - has agreed to help build a salamander underpass beneath Polo Grounds Road later this summer to try to save more from being hit by cars in the future.