Stop! Mating Salamanders ahead

The Jefferson Salamander is so rare that Burlington, Ont. has stopped traffic for it

Stop! Mating

Barry Gray/The Hamilton Spectator

The Jefferson Salamander is so rare that a 100-member colony in Burlington, Ont., is one of the few left in the province. The dark-coloured creatures have lost much of their habitat to urban development, but come mating season a more pressing concern arises—to get to their breeding ponds they must cross a road that stretches up the Niagara Escarpment, dodging cars in the process. Each year many don’t make it. So for three weeks this month, by order of the city, the only traffic permitted to use a span of King Road will be the aroused amphibians. “These guys have to cross the road to get to their breeding ponds,” says Hassaan Basit of local environmental group Conservation Halton. “Closing that road for a little bit during the year will really help this species survive.”

To coincide with the salamanders’ breeding season, which occurs during the first stretch of warm rain after the winter, barricades will block the section of King Road until March 29 to ensure the salamanders can cross over to lay eggs in the ponds on the other side without getting crushed by traffic. Last year, Burlington city council declared the road closed but didn’t put up barriers, allowing traffic to pass through. Conservationists still found several squished carcasses on the road, prompting the city to approve the total closure of the road this year.

No one lives within the closed-off section of road, but Lesley Abramovic lives in one of four houses just south of the barricaded section. Even though she can only leave the neighbourhood in one direction for the time being, Abramovic is fine with the inconvenience. “I’d rather keep them alive than run them over,” she says.