Fewer cars on the road during lockdowns was good news for frogs and salamanders

Frogs and salamanders were happy to see fewer cars on the roads during lockdowns.
During pandemic lockdowns, fewer cars were on the roads. This meant that Maine's salamanders and frogs died far less from road accidents.


Greg LeClair, wildlife biologist, has been fascinated with amphibians ever since he was a child. One rainy day, a yellow-spotted and black spotted salamander stumbled into Greg's driveway in Maine.

GREG LECLAIR : I have never seen a salamander this big and so brightly colored. That was so thrilling to me.


Amphibians such as the wood frog and the spotted salamander migrate every spring to the eastern U.S. Sometimes they get lost as they travel half-mile or more from their forest home to find seasonal puddles or ponds to breed.

LECLAIR: This is basically, if you put it in a proportional meaning, it's the same as the migration of wildebeests to the Serengeti occurring in our backyards, which we are completely unaware to for most years.

MCCAMMON: As LeClair grew older, he came to a terrible realization about his favorite subjects.

LECLAIR: I saw tons of them being hit by cars. It didn't take me long to see that this was a problem.

SHAPIRO LeClair is currently a University of Maine graduate student. He's also organized a group of volunteers to patrol the roads of Maine for four years. They search for amphibians, and if they find them, pull them out of danger.

MCCAMMON - In the spring 2020, during the height of pandemic shut downs, volunteers noticed something strange. They found half the number of frogs that had been crushed on Maine roads than in previous years.

LECLAIR: 2020 was an excellent year to be an amphibian. The mortality rates fell by approximately 50% in recent times.

SHAPIRO LeClair's research is published in Conservation Science and Practice.

MCCAMMON - The bad news, LeClair states, is that many drivers are back on the roads. The survey this year showed a return of pre-pandemic levels of froggy roadkill. He also knows that wood frogs and spotted salamanders are not everyone's favourite animals...

LECLAIR: When people realize that they can love an animal that isn’t furry or feathered, it opens up a lot of doors. Especially when you begin to understand the stories of these animals. These tiny creatures have been doing it for thousands of years and are now suffering under our cars' tires. They are often invisible to most people.

SHAPIRO - LeClair hopes that his work will encourage drivers to be more attentive on the roads, just like frogs or other amphibians navigate Frogger.

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