Amphibian Monitoring Program

Last Updated 4/7/16
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Background Info

During the first warm, rainy nights of spring, over half a dozen different species of frogs and salamanders make a mass migration from their wintering sites in upland habitats to vernal pools and other suitable breeding grounds.  Due to habitat fragmentation by roads, a vast number of frogs and salamanders are inadvertently killed each year trying to cross through the traffic.  Road mortality is painfully high, destroying entire populations or limiting their success rate.  Add to this increased development and higher road usage, and the scales are tipped squarely against these animals.  The objectives of this program are to educate the public about this little-known mass migration, and to recruit volunteers to assist our four-legged friends in their dangerous journey.

Program History

In spring 2005 NBNC piloted an amphibian rescue program.  Over 60 central Vermonters came to an informational training at the nature center to learn how to help amphibians safely cross roads.  Over 30 volunteers sent in reports from locations throughout the region.  In spring 2006, we brought our mission to other communities, hosting training sessions in Northfield, Stowe, Jericho, and Waterbury. In 2007 we held trainings in Waitsfield, Calais, Roxbury and Marshfield where we identified new crossing sites and recruited new volunteers. More new communities hosted trainings in 2008-2012, with over 400 people attending trainings.




Migration Forecast: TONIGHT!
Despite the brief reprise of winter this past week, amphibians are primed for movement in the Champlain Valley and even some central Vermont locations that have sufficiently thawed. Tonight's forecast looks excellent for amphibian movement in much of the state, excluding some of the colder sites in central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom. 

If you do go out, please be sure to report your findings!

Where should I Go?

Because we have so many sites that are so spread out, we do not guarantee supervision at any one site but instead encourage volunteers to independently seek out a site close to them. Each season we add to our archive of known crossing sites, which is a great place to start. But we also encourage volunteers to help us discover new sites. We have provided some tools to assist with this in our training videos, but if you want to be bold and help discover a new site, you should be sure to check out this great new blog post by herpetologist Kiley Briggs, which highlights some of the finer points of finding an amphibian crossing. If you have any questions about where to go, don't hesitate to send us an email.


When Will They Move?

Forecasting the movement of amphibians across a large area is fraught with challenges. Micro-conditions such as differing hill steepness (slope), hill direction (aspect), elevation, and of course, weather, can result in timing differences of a couple weeks between sites. Today's rain will create perfect conditions for amphibian movement in some areas, but not in others. If you are wondering if amphibians will move in your area, here are three questions to ask yourself:
  1. Has the ground thawed? If you can still feel the crunch of ice under your feet as you walk through the forest, it is likely too early. That said, species like Wood Frog and Jefferson Salamander can and will migrate even if there is still some snow on the ground and vernal pools are still partially frozen, given the right conditions.
  2. Is it warm enough? The cut-off temperature of 40-degrees is a pretty good benchmark to use. Some amphibians may still move in colder temperatures, but generally speaking, the warmer it is, the better the conditions are for active amphibians.
  3. Is it wet enough? Even if the temperature is right and the ground is thawed, it is unlikely that many amphibians will move without the requisite moisture. 
If the above three conditions are met, then there is a good chance amphibians will be on the move!


After an extremely mild winter, it should come as no surprise that amphibian migrations will be occuring earlier this year than typical. In fact, some amphibians have already begun to move in the Champlain Valley. The next warm, rainy night could be a big one for migrating amphibians, so stay tuned!


After a relatively dry start to the month, where the few instances of rain seemed to always begin late at night, conditions are perfect tonight for amphibians to be moving. And with rains predicted to persist into the evening hours, amphibians will find busier roads tonight than they have earlier this season. 

If you have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to get outside and help some amphibians, tonight is the night! Here are three steps to get ready to head out and monitor a road crossing site:

  1. Watch the training videos if you need a refresher on the proper protocol for road monitoring.
  2. Find a crossing site where you plan to volunteer. (or try to discover a new site with these helpful tips).
  3. Print out a data sheet to bring into the field (you can always submit your data online later).
Lastly, for the latest on amphibian activity throughout the state, and to participate in the conversation by adding in your observations, check out the Vermont Vernal Pools google group

Good luck out there tonight, let us know what you find!

4/8/15 - In trying to make training resources for amphibian crossing volunteers more available, I have created over 50 minutes of videos highlighting the content that has been offered in our training sessions over the past 8 years.

These videos and other resources can be watched by first-time volunteers to learn all you need to know about monitoring a crossing site, or as a refresher for the seasoned volunteer. In either case, I welcome your feedback and advice on how to further improve this resource.

View the online training videos.

4/7/15 - More training resources have now been added! We now have over 50 minutes of videos uploaded and more links to a few additional resources are on the way!

See older news stories.

Upcoming Events

Amphibians Moving Early This Year

After an extremely mild winter, it should come as no surprise that amphibian migrations will be occuring earlier this year than typical. In fact, some amphibians have already begun to move in the Champlain Valley and Wood Frogs have been heard singing in Montpelier. The next warm rainy night, TONIGHT, could be a big one for migrating amphibians, so stay tuned!

Training Resources:



Please return all data sheets, maps, and photos to:

Larry Clarfeld
North Branch Nature Center
713 Elm Street
Montpelier, VT 05602


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713 Elm Street, Montpelier VT 05602
(802) 229-6206

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