Musician’s other hat: amphibian rescue patrol
When I first moved here from Manhattan, 30-plus years ago, I observed while driving in the evening of the first spring rains many crushed spotted salamanders on the roads. Of course there were quite a few that had not been run over by vehicles. So I got out and seeing the direction the little critters were headed, assisted them to safety. Some were headed to the right side of the road and some to the left. There were other species of amphibian life as well: frogs (spring peepers and wood frogs) and other salamanders (marbled and northern reds), but the majority were the spotted salamanders.
I decided to start an organization called Warwick Amphibian Rescue Mission (WARM). With the help of Ed Sattler, who was teaching science at the high school, I got students and parents and other interested parties out that next spring rain to assist us in directing traffic and helping with the crossing.
Spotted salamanders are usually unseen, as they burrow beneath rotted logs and leaf litter on the forest floor. But during the spring rains they emerge to mate in vernal pools, and that’s when they are vulnerable.
Who cares? It’s a question I field regularly, and here goes: Spotted salamanders are large as far as salamanders go, and have a certain beauty, being almost black with yellow spots. As far as their place in the ecosystem, they are an “indicator species.” They can only exist in a healthy environment. If found by a stream or pond, you can be sure that that body of water is clean and pure. Unfortunately, with more deforestation and development their numbers are decreasing.
I hope you’ll join the effort. If you’ve seen amphibians crossing the street, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as to the location of these crossing spots, or to volunteer as a crossing guard.
- Marty Kuper-Smith, Warwick NY
The guitarist for Jay and the Americans, Kuper-Smith was featured in Dirt as “the rattlesnake whisperer.”