Pacific Newts (All) - Lexington Reservoir Area's News

April 13, 2019

Reasons why Pacific Newt roadkill may be significantly under-reported

I'm reposting this entry from January 15, 2019 (with some additions) to emphasize its importance. As horrifying as the total death count is (5,349 as of this date), we may be under-reporting the actual number killed on Alma Bridge Rd. Here are the reasons:

1. Most of the time @merav and I are not able to cover the entire 4.1 mile length of Alma Bridge Road. We survey both sides of the road, so the entire hike is 8.2 miles. It takes about 3-5 hours to survey the entire length taking pictures. Some days (during the week) I only have a couple hours to do this work. I'm keeping a spreadsheet that shows the percentage of coverage for each day we go to the site. I've only covered 100% on six out of 52 data collection days. The average coverage per survey date is 47%. Therefore, the death toll could be as high as twice what we've reported!

2. Carcasses disappear from the road over time. @merav and I walked between Limekiln and Priest Rock trailheads one Saturday morning, and she noticed the following: "By the way - I was there again in the afternoon for a hike, and was surprised to see that almost all the newts we saw in the morning just by the Limekiln trailhead were gone. In the morning there were at least 10 dead newts. By 4 pm they were all gone, but 1 that was still there."

3. Carcasses disintegrate beyond recognition when many cars run them over. The traffic throughput on weekends is sometimes as high as 90+ vehicles per hour. Imagine what a small, soft-bodied newt looks like after it's been run over by 90+ vehicles.

4. We have not taken into account the effect that scavengers may have on newt roadkill count. According to Greg Pauly, Curator of Herpetology, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, "Raccoons, skunks, otters, crows, and ravens are all known predators of newts. While garter snakes swallow newts whole and therefore get exposed to the full dose of toxins (which of course is highly variable across species and populations within species), these bird and mammal predators tend to slit the animals up the belly and then eat the muscle tissue inside, often pulling limbs out. This leaves behind most of the organs and the skin with some or all of the limbs turned inside-out."

* I've seen crows eating the newt carcasses on several occasions:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19649069
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19649066
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19476078

* I've also seen beetles that appear to be eating newt carcasses:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19375712
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19354057
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19184311

5. When there's a lot of rain, the carcasses tend to turn to mush rather quickly and they look like grayish splats on the road. You wouldn't even know they're newt roadkill unless you know what to look for. There are a lot of them, but I can't even begin to quantify how many.

Posted on April 13, 2019 11:44 by truthseqr truthseqr | 1 comments | Leave a comment

Pacific Newt Roadkill: 56 old carcasses; 1 live one seen

April 10, 2019 (Wednesday)

(Merav's survey results) Good news - they are gone! Only found old dead ones today. I did the Soda Spring area for an hour, counted a few dozen dry ones, no fresh ones. Also saw a live one in the little pool by Limekiln trail head.

See: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/merav/2019/4/10

Other roadkill: 2 Western Toads

Coverage: (~21%) Soda Springs Canyon area.

Rainfall: no rain in 4 days

Posted on April 13, 2019 11:21 by truthseqr truthseqr | 3 comments | Leave a comment

April 09, 2019

Pacific Newt Roadkill: 5,293 dead

April 8, 2019 (Monday)

I'm done. Today will be my last roadkill survey for the 2018-2019 newt migration season. There were only 8 carcasses for the past 5 days, so it looks like the migration season has just about ended.

TOTAL DEAD: 5,293
This season (2018-2019): 4,822
2017-2018 Season: 471
Other roadkill: 67 (21 Species)
Data collection days: 51

Special thanks to @merav and @biohexx1 for walking the beat with me and helping to collect data for this gruesome project.

Important lessons learned:
• Pacific Newts don’t just come out on rainy nights. A significant number of them are out and about during the daytime. Also, some of the highest roadkill numbers occurred when there had been no rainfall for several days.
• Similar carnage is probably happening throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains wherever a road bisects the newts’ habitat.
• The government is very slow to take action. A lot of public pressure is required to get them to take any action at all. There’s a lot of politics involved. Ugh!

Posted on April 09, 2019 02:56 by truthseqr truthseqr | 10 comments | Leave a comment

Pacific Newt Roadkill: 8 found dead today; no live ones seen

April 8, 2019 (Monday) 9:45 am – 11:45 am

There were 2 fresh carcasses and 6 that were a few days old (8 total). The migration season seems to be coming to an end. I’m fairly certain most of the dead were Taricha granulosa.

See: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/truthseqr/2019/4/8

Other roadkill: 3 toads, a frog, a millipede, a broad-footed mole, and a snake

Coverage: (~51%) Vulcan quarry to Soda Springs Rd. plus spot-checked a few other locations.

Rainfall: (MTD: 0.54 in; YTD: 24.79 in) It was warm and sunny this morning.

Traffic: Traffic was light. Two gravel trucks, a few maintenance trucks, a fire truck (Ben Lomond crew) with ~12 firemen at the Priest Rock trailhead, and 13 speeding cars/pickups.

Posted on April 09, 2019 02:35 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 04, 2019

Pacific Newt Roadkill: 14 found dead today; no live ones seen

April 3, 2019 (Wednesday) 9:45 am – 11:45 am

I found 14 fresh newt carcasses today. The migration season is definitely waning. I’m fairly certain most of the dead were Taricha granulosa.

See: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/truthseqr/2019/4/3

Other roadkill: 2 toads and a Western Fence Lizard

Coverage: (~51%) Vulcan quarry to Soda Springs Rd. plus spot-checked a few other locations.

Rainfall: (MTD: 0.18 in; YTD: 24.43 in) It was drizzling this morning.

Traffic: Traffic was light. Approximately 10 cars and pickups.

Posted on April 04, 2019 02:11 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 30, 2019

Pacific Newt Roadkill: 27 found dead today; no live ones seen

March 30, 2019 (Saturday) 9:00 am – 11:30 am

I found 27 fresh newt carcasses today and 36 partially decomposed ones. I’ll have to compare the decomposed ones to previous observations to ensure no duplicates are added to the project. This may take days or weeks to complete.
It looks like the migration season is slowly coming to an end. Thank goodness!!! I’ll stop taking roadkill counts when there are fewer than 5 carcasses on two consecutive survey dates. I hope this population survives.

See: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/truthseqr/2019/3/30

Other roadkill: Sierran Tree Frog

Coverage: (~100%) St. Joseph’s Hill OSP to Aldercroft Heights Rd.

Rainfall: (MTD: 5.09 in; YTD: 24.25 in) It was cool and sunny this morning.

Traffic: This was the first time since rowing season started that there wasn’t a steady stream of speeding cars on Alma Bridge Rd. from the park entrance to the Los Gatos Rowing Club (LGRC). There was a lot of activity around the Lexington County boat launch area. I’m hoping the LGRC took my suggestion and worked out a way to launch their boats from the county boat launch area. That would *significantly* reduce the traffic on Alma Bridge Rd. on the weekends. This is the best news I’ve heard in months. The roadside parking spaces were all nearly full (~60 cars) from St. Joseph’s Hill OSP to LGRC. Minimal traffic (5-10 vehicles) south of LGRC.

Posted on March 30, 2019 23:05 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 28, 2019

Pacific Newt Roadkill: 69 found dead today; no live ones seen; total deaths > 5,200

March 27, 2019 (Wednesday) 9:40 am – 11:40 am

I found 69 newt carcasses on the road today.

See: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/truthseqr/2019/3/27

Other roadkill: A frog and a Jerusalem Cricket.

Coverage: (~51%) Vulcan quarry to Soda Springs Canyon plus spot-checked a few other locations.

Rainfall: (MTD: 5.0 in; YTD: 24.16 in) It rained this morning. Overnight low temp was 56.4 F.

Traffic: There were a handful of cars and pickups. Road maintenance crews clearing rock and mudslides.

Posted on March 28, 2019 03:12 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 25, 2019

Pacific Newt Roadkill: 132 found dead today

March 24, 2019 (Sunday) 7:00 am – 12:00 pm

@biohexx1 and his family joined me this morning for the weekend roadkill count (all the way from San Diego!!). @biohexx1 took one side of the road and I took the other. I found 130 freshly killed newts (within 2-3 days, i.e., since the last survey). I also found 84 partially decomposed newts. I’ll need to compare these with previous observations to ensure no duplicates are added to the project. This may take days or weeks to complete.

The injured newt I found on 3/17/2019 is now dead.

See: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/truthseqr/2019/3/24

Other roadkill: 2 Western Fence Lizards and a millipede. I also saw a headless mouse, but I think it was the victim of predation, not roadkill.

Coverage: (100%) St. Joseph’s Hill OSP to Aldercroft Heights Rd. (4.1 miles)

Rainfall: (MTD: 4.35 in; YTD: 23.51 in) It didn’t rain today. It was chilly this morning with an overnight low of 41.8 degrees (borderline for seeing fresh newt roadkill).

Traffic: I didn’t pay much attention to traffic today, so I can’t report on it. I did notice the County put up all the “Newt Crossing” signs they promised to install.

Posted on March 25, 2019 01:53 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 22, 2019

160 dead newts, 1 live newt

March 21, Thursday, 9:30-11:00 am
Found 160 dead newts on the Soda Spring area, and one live newt just before Limekiln. Most of the newts were rather fresh. A few of the newts were quite small (took a second photo with my hand in it for scale).
Weather: nice, but was raining the night before - 0.44 inches, highest temp 65.8.
Saw 12 cars, and 5 bikes.
In addition to the newts, I saw 1 dead millipede, 1 Western Fence Lizard, and 2 dead Western Toads reported on https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/other-roadkill-lexington-reservoir-area

Posted on March 22, 2019 16:51 by merav merav | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 21, 2019

Pacific Newt Roadkill: 230 found dead today; 2 alive

March 20, 2019 (Wednesday) 9:45 am – 11:45 am

I found 230 dead newts on Alma Bridge Rd. this morning in 2 hours. Since I was only able to cover 40% of the study area, the actual death toll for today was probably closer to 400. I also saw two live newts on the road heading toward the water. I helped one across the road. There was no place to stop to help the other one.

I saw a road crew putting up the County’s “Newt Crossing” signs. I don’t know who decided on the placement of these signs, but they’re not even near the hot spots. In my opinion, they won’t help at all (they should’ve save their money for a more effective solution). I overheard the road crew talking about the newts – one man said, “What are you supposed to do? Stop to help a newt across the road and cause an accident?” Another man was walking the road looking at the roadkill and shaking his head. People care, but they don’t know what to do.

See: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/truthseqr/2019/3/20

Coverage: (~41%) St. Joseph’s Hill OSP to the stop sign. (1.7 miles)

Rainfall: (MTD: 3.88 in; YTD: 23.04 in) It rained off and on this morning.

Traffic: There were a handful of cars and pickups. Some were driving the speed limit (25 mph), others were speeding. I saw a couple of big trucks entering the Vulcan quarry. There were road maintenance crews clearing rock and mudslides and putting up signs.

Posted on March 21, 2019 12:28 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment