Sign of spring: Dozens come out to witness annual spotted salamander migration

It is often considered one of the earliest signs of spring – the annual migration of the spotted salamander in New Jersey.
The amphibians’ annual migration is prompted by the first warm and rainy night of late winter. The event often brings out scores of people interested in seeing the creatures out and about.
The spotted salamander lives mostly underground and is rarely seen except during this small window of time each year. They make their way from upland woods to vernal pools where they breed.
“We look at a calendar for spring. But this is biological spring. They know when it’s the right time to move,” says Dave Moskowitz, chairman of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission.
In East Brunswick, getting from the forest to the pool involves crossing busy Beekman Road, so for 20 years, the township has closed the road down on nights when the salamanders are migrating.
Liti Haramaty from the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission sometimes takes spotted salamanders to local schools to teach kids about them.
“And I say, ‘Where do you guys think this is from, this creature?’ And they say, ‘Oh it's from Brazil. It’s from the rainforest. It's from Australia.’ And I say, ‘No, it lives right here in town behind the baseball fields,’ and the look on their faces is just priceless,” she says.
Those kids often wind up bringing their parents to see the salamanders. There are often more kids than animals.
“This is as good as it gets, everything about it is perfect,” says Moskowitz. “We have salamanders, we have frogs and we have kids out on a rotten rainy February night squealing in happiness at salamanders. What could be better?”
The spotted salamander is listed as a species of concern in New Jersey due to its declining numbers. This is largely the result of a loss of habitat.