Journal archives for April 2019

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

April 09, 2019

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

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

April 13, 2019

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

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