'Tis the season of snowdrops and salamanders. "Neither wind, nor rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor dark of night" can stop the salamanders from answering the call of nature to head out of their snug spots, trudging their way to chilly water.
Thus, the vernal journey of the spotted salamander has begun. Accounts of movement have been reported in Groton and Ayer. They have been known to even crawl over snow banks. The first sign of activity is usually signaled by the evening calls of the spring peeper frogs. But the salamanders have beaten them to it.
On rainy spring nights usually above 40 degrees, they will be moving from their upland homes under logs and leaves to their aqueous, natal pools and streams to mate.
These fascinating creatures are small, slow and dark, making them an unwitting target to motorists as they try to cross the roads.
Salamanders measure anywhere from 3 inches to 8 inches long, and are black with yellow spots. On very rare occasions, perhaps a blue spotted salamander may be seen. If so, contact the Conservation Office as to its location.
When crossing, they appear as a stick with an upward bend to their head.
The carnage is devastating as salamanders and frogs are inadvertently squashed by drivers who have no idea of their existence. In some cases, their continued survival depends on humans being aware of them, as they cross certain roads that are near their mating pools. Salamanders can have a long lifespan -- up to 20 years.
A group of dedicated volunteers in Pepperell need more helpers to come out and move them safely off the roads to the waterways, always advancing them in the direction they were moving to. Motorists are urged to drive slowly on rainy nights for the safety of the volunteers and the animals they are trying to save.
The roadways they are crossing are: Maple, Lawrence and Elm streets, to name a few. Residents in these areas are highly encouraged to come out to help save these intriguing amphibians.
Even as little as one hour's work can mean saving the lives of many. It is extremely educational for children.
Contact the town conservation office for information on how to help. In Pepperell, there is a signup sheet at Town Hall.
The best hours to reach the Pepperell Conservation Office are Monday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For information call 978-433-0325. For rainy night crossing updates call 978-433-0995.