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Canadian Herpetological Society

Société d'herpétologie du Canada

Amherst's Salamander Tunnel

| Amphibian & Reptile Tunnels |

A Brief overview:

  • Amherst is located in western Massachusetts in an area where the upland habitat and wetland breeding ponds of the Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) (henceforth referred to as SPSA) are separated by the busy Henry Street
  • from the mid 1970's until 1987 a local group of naturalist's assisted migrating amphibians across the road
  • Amherst resident Robert Winston received permission from the Town Board to close vehicular traffic during SPSA migration hours on Henry Street
  • He also appeared on television
  • the Flora and Fauna Protection Society (affiliate of Zoological Society in London, England) proposed that Amherst be the site of the first North American amphibian tunnel
  • 2 tunnels were constructed by ACO Polymer Products out of the US office in Ohio for $3,000.00 ea.
  • Massachusetts Audubon Society (MAS) became involved in design and implementation
  • A berm with raised concrete platforms around the tunnels kept spring flooding out but afforded access by the SPSA
  • SPSA very reluctant to enter dark tunnels
  • experiments conducted with flashlights suggested that SPSA may be motivated by light levels
  • MAS volunteers shone 2 lights into the tunnel (1 at either end) for reluctant SPSA
  • Hesitant SPSA responded to lights by moving quickly through the tunnels.
  • a few still hesitated to the tunnels lit with ambient light
  • insufficient numbers to make "light" discovery scientifically valid
  • tunnels provide an opportunity to conduct scientific research on migration patterns and behaviour of amphibians
  • a grid system over top of tunnel to allow ambient light to enter
  • openings are 9 inches high and 7 inches wide and are spaced 200 feet apart
  • 8 inch high mesh fences direct SPSA to the tunnels on both sides of the road
  • 5 year study coordinated by the MAS on effectiveness of tunnels
  • SPSA marked for individual ID