Northern New England's annual amphibian migration is always perilous, but critters that cross roads to breed are facing an additional challenge this year: a delayed start after the long winter. Every spring, several species of salamanders and frogs travel to vernal pools —temporary bodies of water created by melted snow—to mate and lay eggs, and the resulting offspring need several months to develop and grow legs before the pools dry up in summer. Wildlife officials say the migration is running a week or two behind this year, cutting into that critical development time. That could affect millions of animals across Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire, says Eric Orff, a wildlife biologist with the National Wildlife Federation.
"With a late spring and climate change predicting hotter, drier summers, we're really in a race against time before these vernal pools dry up, leaving these animals stranded to die," Orff says. The critters start moving on rainy nights when temperatures are in the 40s and 50s, and officials are urging residents to do what they can to help the amphibians survive their trek. "If you can get that gallon of milk on the way home from work and avoid driving when rain is predicted after dark, that's the best thing—to stay off the road if you can," Orff says. "If you must drive when it's raining at night, slow down. Slow way down, and think 'frog.'"