Marquette, MI

Michigan city closes a road to protect migrating salamanders

B.R. Shenoy

“Protecting the blue-spotted salamanders’ migration is vital, as they are an indicator species, informing us about the health of our environment,” —Kathleen Henry, a special projects coordinator and education specialist for the Superior Watershed Partnership, stated to The Mining Journal in an email.

Blue-spotted salamanders are not endangered, but they are an indicator species that may alert people about the ecosystem. They are endemic to the Great Lakes states, the northeast, and portions of Canada.

According to The Washington Post, a college student named Eli Bieri was instrumental in convincing officials to close a park road in Marquette, Michigan every night until mid-April to provide safe passage for salamanders.

A portion of Peter White Drive in Presque Isle Park is closed to vehicle traffic, every night at 8 p.m. from Monday, March 21 through April 30, to allow its significant population of blue-spotted salamanders to migrate and reproduce safely. Only foot traffic is permitted in the area.

Study

According to a 2019 scientific evaluation of the road, 400 salamanders were killed by automobiles every year as they migrated to their breeding ponds from the park during the spring egg-laying season.

Another study indicated that just three salamanders were killed once road restrictions began in 2020.

The salamanders only reproduce at night, have black skin, and grow to be less than six inches long, making them extremely difficult to notice for motorists.

Closing Thoughts

The move has proven so popular that the city now hosts a “Salamander Days” Festival.

Salamander-watching excursions are now so prevalent in Marquette that the city has chosen to host its inaugural Salamander Days this spring, a six-week series of events that will include a salamander art display and walks to learn about the amphibians' environment.

The action exemplifies how strategically placed road closures may allow humans and wildlife to cohabit with less friction.

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