New Haven, Vt. The black salamander with yellow spots sat on the roadside in the dark, ready to make a go of it.
But it was not on its own. It got help from an escort — one of 45 people who volunteered on a recent night to carry salamanders, frogs and newts across the road during their annual migration to mate.
On rainy nights in early spring, roads between forests and vernal pools are hopping and crawling with activity. On some nights, hundreds of amphibians cross small stretches of asphalt to mate. But many don’t make it.
From rural Vermont to urban centers like Philadelphia, human escorts, called bucket brigades in some places, help amphibians make it to their mating areas without getting squashed by cars. It’s part education, part conservation and part science.
On a recent night, University of Vermont student Kaitlin Friedman walked with other volunteers along the asphalt with flashlights and clipboards, moving wood frogs, peepers, blue-spotted, red-backed and four-toed salamanders across the road, while jotting down how many they saw. They also kept count of vehicles, and the amphibians that didn’t make it, trying to identify the flattened carcasses.
“It’s pretty much the one time of year where you get to see a lot of salamanders in abundance and it’s just really cool,” said Friedman, 20, of Long Island, N.Y.