Salamander Threats & Conservation

Amphibians all around the world are in trouble. Of the 11 salamander species in the state, three are listed under the MA Endangered Species Act. 

They face several dangers throughout their lives, and many salamanders perish when they cross roads to reach their breeding pools. Loss of habitat is another major threat.

Salamanders Crossing Roads

Some salamander species emerge from their underground wintering sites to migrate to their breeding pools—temporary water bodies called vernal pools. This annual salamander migration is an exciting spectacle, and usually happens in late winter or early spring on the first rainy night over 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unfortunately, many of our roads pass between those upland wintering sites and lowland vernal pools. This causes significant salamander road mortality.

How You Can Help

Support the creation of special tunnels called "amphibian migration corridors" (or "salamander tunnels") that allow these creatures to cross safely under roadways. Many towns close specific roads on the first warm rainy nights of spring.

You can also help by joining a local volunteer program in which people physically carry salamanders across roads, often while collecting important scientific data!

Loss of Habitat

Many salamanders inhabit very specific habitats—from vernal pools to sphagnum bogs to forests—and need to travel between different habitats throughout their lives. For that reason, habitat loss and degradation is a serious threat to all salamander species.

Additionally, salamanders have porous, sensitive skin that readily absorbs toxins. That means poor water quality due to acid rain, pollution, and pesticides can negatively impact their survival.

How You Can Help

Contact your local elected officials and ask them to support local wetland bylaws in your town that afford more protection to vernal pools. In addition, you can support efforts to define and preserve other critical salamander habitat.

Unprotected Vernal Pools

Vernal pools are a severely threatened resource in the Commonwealth. But because they only exist for part of the year, many are overlooked when wetlands are identified and certified. These isolated, uncertified vernal pools therefore don't receive protection under the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act.

How You Can Help

Certification is one of the best ways to protect these severely threatened resources—and you can make it happen! To get a vernal pool certified as wildlife habitat, you'll need to gather some information and submit it to MassWildlife's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP). Here's how:

  1. Locate a potential vernal pool—but remember to secure permission from landowners before undertaking exploratory hikes!
  2. Register for an account on the NHESP Heritage Hub, the state's reporting and filing system that allows anyone to report vernal pools. 
  3. Follow the Heritage Hub vernal pool certification guidelines to submit your observation.