CUH Spotted Salamander Conservation effort

2 spotted salamanders crossing Polo Grounds Road in Charlottesville, Virginia

By Devin Floyd

12/3/2020

We are so excited to be featured on the nationally syndicated show, “Untamed”, featuring the wonders of salamanders, and the threats they face. The focal point will be the spotted salamander, and a conservation success story at a salamander migration site in Central Virginia. Here’s the story that will frame the show:

We had long been aware of the history of the annual salamander migration at Polo Grounds road, and the efforts of the community to help them (led by naturalists Ellizabeth “Bess” and Jim Murray). We were also aware that salamanders had not been observed at the location for nearly 15 years. They were presumed extirpated. On a whim and gut feeling, a site visit on a cold rainy night in winter of 2015 changed everything. The enormous and colorful spotted salamanders were migrating across the highway by the dozens during rush hour traffic! A couple volunteers did what they could that evening, but the safety risk and large numbers of animals were overwhelming. It was at that moment that we realized something had to be done!

We took action. For each of the last 4 years a volunteer corps we call the “Salamander Army”  has descended upon the site each winter during the migration window. Over 100 volunteers worked together tirelessly to assist animals across the road, slow traffic, and hand out natural history education information to each car that passed while plans were devised to create a wildlife crossing that would be safe for small animals and cars during rush hour traffic.  All the hard work and community awareness paid off, and three substantial wildlife tunnels have been installed at the site! We now eagerly await winter to see how well they work!

Thank you for your hard work, support, and cooperation: Community Volunteers and Activists, Riverbend Development, Atlas Construction, Albemarle County Police, The Daily Progress, NBC29, CBS19, Ranger Rick Magazine, VDOT, and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors!