Journal archives for February 2019

February 03, 2019

>400 Dead Newts; 1 live one on the road

February 2, 2019 (Saturday)
I found >400 fresh Pacific Newt carcasses on Alma Bridge Rd. within 3 hours this morning. I’m still processing them. I’ll have an exact number in a day or so. I also photographed ~50 partially decomposed carcasses that will have to be compared to previous observations to ensure that no duplicates are entered.

See: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/truthseqr/2019/2/2

Coverage: (~76%) Vulcan Materials quarry to Gate SA-19 (~5 miles).
Rainfall: It rained heavily this morning. We’ve had 1.45 inches of rain since I was last here on Wed.

Traffic: There was a steady stream of cars coming and going from the Los Gatos Rowing Club (even though it was raining heavily). People raced in, dropped off their kids, and raced out. There was a group of runners (approx. 20). Only a few cars parked at the trailheads. South of the Rowing Club, there was very little traffic – only about half a dozen cars. There were also about 6 bicyclists. It was a treacherous day to be out on the road. Water was roaring down the mountainside making many beautiful waterfalls that sounded just like cars driving on the wet road.

Posted on February 03, 2019 01:11 AM by truthseqr truthseqr | 2 comments | Leave a comment

February 07, 2019

Traffic Is Driving A Newt Massacre in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Citizen scientists tracking roadkill on Alma Bridge Road have found thousands of dead newts this season.

https://baynature.org/2019/02/06/traffic-is-driving-a-newt-massacre-in-the-santa-cruz-mountains/

Posted on February 07, 2019 03:00 AM by biohexx1 biohexx1 | 11 comments | Leave a comment

February 09, 2019

Lessons Learned from a Tiger Salamander Roadkill Mitigation Project

Lessons Learned from Stanford University where they installed California Tiger Salamander (a state and federally listed species) under-crossings on Junipero Serra Boulevard: https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Tunnel-of-love-for-Stanford-s-salamanders-2883540.php

Here is a synopsis of their feedback:

1) In areas of ongoing mass mortality, it may not be an immediate emergency (i.e. if it is happening year after year, the overall population may be able to sustain the loss). However, it is still heartbreaking.
2) Assisted migration is very dangerous especially on a busy road with vehicles traveling at high speed, especially in wet and dark conditions. Coordinating assisted migration is also difficult. Groups may show up when there are no animals or not be available when animals are present. Any human injury or death resulting from assisted migration efforts (while horrific in itself) would likely result in diverting staff away from other priority conservation issues (such as special status species recovery work, wildfire risk reduction etc.)
3) Discussions were held with the County about closing the road, and while possible, it would only be for a few days a year and not at the last minute. Since it is difficult to predict when animals would be dispersing and/or because animals cross on so many nights a year, road closure was ultimately not considered a reasonable option (i.e. Animals may not cross when the road is closed and/or it would require ongoing road closures).
4) Signage- similar to road closure, signs lose their effectiveness and trying to time signage to when animals cross is difficult. When they did use temporary signs, the signs went missing.
5) Long term undercrossing with directional fencing are difficult to get a design that works (animal needs are different that road maintenance needs) - it takes time. The area at Stanford was so broad (1+mile) that there was the potential for multiple crossings to cause drainage issues. Similar to Highway 17, there can also be conflicts with existing utilities (such as buried gas lines). There is also some worry that lengthy fencing may be counterproductive - if too long and an animal turns around it may not have an alternate breeding location available. Crossings that work can difficult to maintain. Stanford has focused on shifting the salamander population away from the roadway to an area in the foothills (habitat enhancement in areas away from roads).
6) Newspaper publicity if linked to a specific site can be dangerous if people respond to rescue animals. They may pull off to the side of the road to help which can be very dangerous to the rescuer and other drivers.

Newts have it especially tough in this area as the watershed itself has been so modified and the presence on invasive species such as fish and bullfrogs in the lake may eat the ones who do make it across the road. An important question is if the overall population is so robust that it can sustain large mortality numbers (i.e. are hundreds to thousands of newts born in the area each year so there is no net loss?) Wildlife biologists often study this question for protected species, but it would also be worth looking at for species at risk.

Posted on February 09, 2019 09:50 AM by truthseqr truthseqr | 2 comments | Leave a comment

February 10, 2019

Pacific Newt Roadkill: 207 found dead today; >3000 cumulative total

February 9, 2019 (Saturday)
I found 199 fresh Pacific Newt carcasses on Alma Bridge Rd. and 8 partially decomposed ones, which I compared to previous days to ensure no duplicates were added to the project.

See: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/truthseqr/2019/2/9

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

Rainfall: It rained heavily all night, but stopped in the early morning. There's been 0.94 inches of rain since I was last at Lexington. There was sunshine for part of the 4 hours I did the roadkill count, otherwise it was cloudy, but not raining.

Traffic: Again there was a steady stream of cars coming and going from the Los Gatos Rowing Club. Boats were on the reservoir before sunup (i.e., at 6:50 am). People drive fast on this road - I’m guessing an average of 40 mph on this 25 mph road (15 mph posted for curves). Traffic south of the Rowing Club was very light – only about 10 vehicles. There were a few runners and a few bicyclists. All roadside parking between the Rowing Club and St. Joseph’s Hill OSP were filled when I left at 11am.

Posted on February 10, 2019 02:39 AM by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 11, 2019

Mitigations for Newt Roadkill

I've been asked what can be done about the massive Pacific Newt roadkill issue at Lexington Reservoir. I'm not qualified to recommend solutions. There are experts (wildlife biologists, road ecologists, and others) who do this kind of thing for a living. Here are some references to projects in other communities with information about the analyses they performed and the solutions they came up with:

1. Hobbs, Michael Thomas, "Amphibian Mortality on Roads: A Case Study in Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander Habitat" (2013). Master's Theses. 4389.
https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/etd_theses/4389

This study recommended measures to reduce road mortality to the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander by (1) restricting vehicular traffic on roads dissecting salamander habitats, (2) installing structures to protect the animals while crossing roads, and (3) potentially assisting animals crossing roads at nighttime during the breeding migrations. For a synopsis, see Discussion (p. 45) and Recommendations (p.50).

2. South Park Drive in Tilden Park closed for 5 months to protect newts: https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/11/08/south-park-drive-in-tilden-park-closed-for-5-months-to-protect-newts

3. Tunnel of love for Stanford's salamanders / Breeding amphibians offered way to escape commuters' cars: https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Tunnel-of-love-for-Stanford-s-salamanders-2883540.php

4. California Amphibian and Reptile Crossing Preliminary Investigation: http://www.dot.ca.gov/newtech/researchreports/preliminary_investigations/docs/california_amphibian_reptile_crossing_preliminary_investigation.pdf

5. Best management practices for mitigating the effects of roads on amphibian and reptile populations: https://files.ontario.ca/bmp_herp_2016_final_final_resized.pdf

Posted on February 11, 2019 02:22 PM by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 14, 2019

48 dead newts found on a heavy rain morning; no live ones

February 14, Thursday, from 9:30-10:20.
I (@merav) started at the Priest Rock Trail trailhead, and walked 1.2 km south, to here - 37.187875, -121.986516
I found 48 dead newts, both fresh and not. Also found an arboreal salamander, a dead millipede, and a few earthworms. Due to the heavy rain I might have missed a few very old dead newts, as the road was flooded making it difficult to see them.
It was raining the whole day and night before the survey, and even the previous night (Tuesday).
In about an hour I was there, I saw about 20 cars - pretty quite.
The road was flooded, with some mud-slides from the mountains.
Posted on February 14, 2019 02:34 PM by @merav (copied by @truthseqr to keep all journal posts together)

Pacific Newt Roadkill: 57 found dead today; 1 alive


February 13, 2019 (Wednesday)
I found 57 fresh newt carcasses on Alma Bridge Rd. this morning within one hour. Since it was raining heavily, many of the bodies were just smears of skin and guts on the road. We found one live newt that was heading away from the water and back to the highlands - one of the few lucky survivors of the carnage.

See: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/truthseqr/2019/2/13

Coverage: (~23%) St. Joseph’s Hill OSP to Priest Rock Trailhead

Rainfall: (MTD: 5.63 in; YTD: 11.29 in) It was raining heavily today. Lexington Reservoir is very full now.

Traffic: Traffic was very light this morning. I didn’t even see any heavy trucks going to/from the quarry.

Posted on February 14, 2019 03:56 AM by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 17, 2019

Pacific Newt Roadkill: 50 found dead today; 7 alive

February 16, 2019 (Saturday) 7:48am – 11:38 am
I found 52 newt carcasses on Alma Bridge Rd. this morning. Since it was raining heavily, many of the bodies were just smears of skin and guts on the road.

I saw several California newts swimming in a pool. There was a branch with egg masses in the water.

See: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/truthseqr/2019/2/16

Someone removed the nice “Newt Crossing” sign that was posted just before Limekiln Canyon.

Coverage: (~80%) St. Joseph's Hill to Priest Rock Trailhead & part of trail; skipped the section Merav did 2 days ago; Stop Sign to Aldercroft Heights Rd.
Rainfall: (MTD: 7 in; YTD: 18.47 in) It rained heavily last night and off-and-on this morning while I did the survey. Lexington Reservoir is very full now.

Traffic: Again there was a steady stream of cars coming and going from the Los Gatos Rowing Club. People drive fast on this road - I’m guessing an average of 40 mph on this 25 mph road (15 mph posted for curves). Traffic south of the Rowing Club was very light – less than a dozen vehicles. There were a few runners and a few bicyclists.

Posted on February 17, 2019 10:59 PM by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 19, 2019

Passion for newts drives her mission to save them.

More than 2,695 California newts have lost their lives this winter along a 6-mile stretch of a rural road, their small colorful bodies flattened like discarded banana peels.

http://mercurynews.ca.newsmemory.com/?publink=0ab8a3d7d

Posted on February 19, 2019 01:25 AM by biohexx1 biohexx1 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Pacific Newt Roadkill: 5 found dead today; 1 alive

February 18, 2019 (Monday) 8 am – 10 am
I found 5 fresh newt carcasses on Alma Bridge Rd. this morning plus 16 decomposed ones. There were relatively few old carcasses on the road – they must’ve been washed away by the heavy rains. There was frost on the ground at Lexington and lots of snow on the Diablo Range, but I didn’t see any snow in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The overnight low temperature was 35.4 degrees.

I saw one California newt swimming in a pool.

The “Newt Crossing” sign was returned, but not posted in its original spot on the telephone pole. It was face down in the grass at the base of the pole.

See: https://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/truthseqr/2019/2/18

Coverage: (~27%) Vulcan Materials quarry to Stop Sign & Soda Springs Rd. intersection.

Rainfall: (MTD: 7.18 in; YTD: 18.47 in) It was sunny but cold this morning (frost on the ground).

Traffic: There were long boats on the reservoir early this morning and the associated traffic on the road. Other than that, only a few cars south of the rowing club and a few trucks entering the quarry.

Posted on February 19, 2019 02:02 AM by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Newts make front page of the Mercury News

"Passion for newts drives her mission to save them: 2,695 and counting..."

Use the link below to view the article.
http://mercurynews.ca.newsmemory.com/?publink=0ab8a3d7d

Posted on February 19, 2019 02:06 AM by truthseqr truthseqr | 1 comments | Leave a comment