PA Press: Frog Lady Helps Amphibians Cross Roads
This is a Press Information page entitled PA Press: Frog Lady Helps Amphibians Cross Roads within the Press / News Items section of Caudata.org --- NBC 10 (Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania) 04 April 08 Frog Lady Helps Amphibians Cross Roads (Leah Zerbe) Elverson, Pa.: You hear them long before you see ...
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Our Roving Correspondent
PA Press: Frog Lady Helps Amphibians Cross Roads
NBC 10 (Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania) 04 April 08 Frog Lady Helps Amphibians Cross Roads (Leah Zerbe)
Elverson, Pa.: You hear them long before you see them.
Patiently standing along a lonely country road, the frog lady listens under darkening, cloudy skies, waiting for the rain to lure the nocturnal critters from the hills, summoning them to their wetland breeding grounds below.
Peeper frogs' unique pitches start to serenade the countryside as the sun sets. They and the silent, slithering salamanders and wood frogs wait for the spring rain that will coax them into their big journey -- up to a mile long -- to a nearby vernal breeding pool.
The fishless pools of water are seasonal and dry up by summer.
But before the extreme heat hits, they crowd into the waters, laying eggs that will ensure another generation of amphibians in Northern Chester and Berks counties.
As vehicles buzz by, windows up and radios on, many miss nature's song. But Nadine Bergeron, known as the frog lady, listens intently.
One of the amphibians' greatest human allies awaits the Elverson raindrops.
If it rains and the critters start to cross the road, she will gently scoop them up (keeping them on the same path they were following) and set them on the other side of the road.
Most passing motorists understand, and some even gently beep their horns in support. On a good night, someone will stop and help clear the critters off the pavement.
Others are not so understanding.
"You need to go back to where you came from," a woman shouted one night.
The event that led Bergeron to her salamander-saving mission was traumatic.
Several years ago, she and her daughter were driving along when they unintentionally drove through an amphibian-crossing hotspot.
"Hundreds covered the road," she recalled. "Singing everywhere. It was like magic. The only problem was, they were all getting run over."
She scrambled to her feet and started picking them up, but as vehicles continued to speed by, the peepers' songs were paired with an unpleasant note.
"You could hear this loud pop, pop, pop as they hit the frogs," she said.
After the cars passed, they stood frozen, looking at the smashed critters that would never make it across the road. Soon after, mother and daughter went home and cried. Life, she concluded, was too fast-paced.
Since that night on the road, she's taken action and learned a lot about amphibians' challenges.
"Our amphibians' plight is directly involved with the environmental emergencies we are dealing with on a global scale," she said, noting that the world's amphibians are endangered or in decline. "At the same time, it illustrates how folks can and do act locally in many areas."
Habitat loss is an obstacle, among other things.
"When you develop, you dig up the ground where they live," she said. "Once they start tearing up the earth, that's it. The ones that survive usually get killed crossing the road."
She said there are severalother factors affecting them, too. Even wild places that seem relatively pristine have amphibian species rapidly declining. The traffic-mortality factor is also a big contributor in many places in North America and Europe, and luckily, it's the easiest one to act on and make a difference."
Bergeron spent years attending PennDOT meetings, trying to cut through the red tape so she could protect local amphibians making their dangerous journeys their woodland homes to their breeding pools and back.
She can't actually stop or flag down drivers anymore -- she met a financial roadblock when she learned hired fire police were required to do that kind of thing -- but she said just by standing alongside the road, accompanied sometimes only by her car's blinking flashers and a salamander crossing sign, makes many people slow down and pay closer attention to the road, including the critters that are on it.
Through her efforts, Bergeron founded the Amphibian Preservation Alliance, a group working to preserve Pennsylvania's woodlands, wetlands and biodiversity, especially in the Big Woods area and amphibians like Jefferson, four-toed and spotted salamanders, and wood frogs.
Jefferson salamanders, a species Bergeron said is rare to southeast Pennsylvania, are listed as a species of concern in Pennsylvania. She and volunteers save many of them every spring, and will most likely be doing it for years to come.
She hopes special wetland areas and crossing hotspots will one day be protected, but until then, she and volunteers must handpick crossing frogs and salamanders off the roads to prevent mass mortalities.
As one evening wound to an end, one man in a red car slowed around the corner and hit the brakes when he spotted Bergeron.
"Are you guys OK?" he asked.
Nadine scanned the dry road, no sign of her amphibian friends.
"We're fine," she said, looking to the earthy hill.
And they would be, too. The rain didn't come until the wee hours of the morning, when the wet asphalt was silent and untouched by the sleepy humans.
There are many amphibian-crossing hotspots in Chester, Berks and Bucks counties. Anyone who would like to get involved in Bergeron's cause, or any schools, camps or museums interested in learning more can contact Bergeron at email@example.com or visit her Web site (http://www.earthvisionweavers.com/).
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