Hitchcock Center Guide To Annual Spotted Salamander Migration

Spotted salamander. Photo: Hitchcock Center For the Evironment

Source: Hitchcock Center Newsletter

Henry Street Salamander Tunnels
Every year after the first spring rains in Amherst, volunteer “bucket brigades” used to stop traffic along Henry Street to carry migrating spotted salamanders safely across the road on Big Night.

Spotted Salamander. Photo: Hitchcock Center for the Environment

Henry Street separates salamanders from the vernal pools (small temporary ponds) where they migrate every spring to mate and to lay eggs. When word spread about the animals’ plight, the British Fauna and Floral Preservation Society and ACO Polymer in Germany provided funds for an experimental tunnel project on Henry Street. In 1987, the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, Amherst Department of Public Works, University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Audubon Society, and local residents worked together to build two tunnels, 200 feet (61m) apart, and short “drift fences” to guide migrating salamanders into the tunnels. Today, the Hitchcock Center maintains these important migratory tunnels with volunteers to ensure that they remain free of debris and that the drift fences are mended after the heavy winter snow.

Our  gratitude to Cowls Building Supply and the Jones Family for allowing the Henry Street Salamander Tunnel project to be built on their land, and for their cooperation with the tunnels’ ongoing operation and maintenance.

Henry Street Salamander Tunnel. Photo: Hitchcock Center for the Environment

Interested in joining us to help with tunnel maintenance? Visit our volunteer page for a call for volunteers in late winter.

For more about the salamanders, the Henry Street tunnels, images and video, check here and here. More information can be found in this Highlights Magazine article.

Want to stay up-to-date on Big Night and volunteer opportunities at Henry Street? Consider joining our Hitchcock Center: Henry Street Salamander Tunnels facebook group for all the latest information available directly in your news feed.

Get Notified about Big Night 2023. Big Night is approaching! Spring 2023, Date TBD

It is getting close to the time of year again for Big Night – the annual salamander migration from their year-round forest territories to their breeding pool at Henry Street in North Amherst.

Join us for the excitement of Big Night to assist and observe the Henry Street yellow spotted salamanders on their journey – the first rainy night of spring when temperature remain above 40 degrees.

Register on Eventbrite to get a notification about Big Night the week and/or day of the event! You can also call our Visitor’s Center to confirm the date at 413-256-6006 which we will add to our organization’s voicemail.


Big Night Instructions

Download a pdf version of the instructions.

Big Night occurs each spring when spotted salamanders and wood frogs migrate from their winter woodland habitats to nearby vernal wetlands to breed. During the first warm spring rains, in March or sometimes as late as April, after dark and with a stable temperature of 40 degrees F or above amphibians are likely to be moving.

If you are considering visiting the Henry Street tunnels for Big Night, we ask that you please consider the following guidelines to help keep the salamanders, frogs, and humans safe.

  • Please take East Pleasant to Pine Street and park at Cushman. Then walk up Pine Street to Henry Street.
  • Please do not cross over the fence with orange tape on it. Stay on the road side of these fences.
  • If you need any help or have any questions, please ask a volunteer who will have a yellow reflective vest on.
  • If you have reflective clothing, please wear it for safety.
  • Please do not touch the animals unless they are in danger while on the road. If you do have to help one, please do not carry them in your hands, use a wet leaf. The very best thing to do is find the volunteers whose job will be to have buckets ready for collecting critters on the road.
  • Please make sure your flashlights are covered in red cellophane because regular light can impact the migrating creatures. We do have a supply of cellophane so please ask for some.
  • Be very careful if you have to cross the road as the vehicles can have difficulty seeing you. Do not take any chances, car will not be asked to slow down. 
  • Please be aware of where your children are at all times and make sure they and you know the rules to correctly enjoy the salamander and frog migration. For young children, please accompany them at all times for everyone’s safety.

Thank you for your cooperation and enjoy the night!

Photo: Hitchcock Center for the Environment

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1 thought on “Hitchcock Center Guide To Annual Spotted Salamander Migration

  1. This brings back such wonderful memories!
    When we first moved to Cushman there were no tunnels, but there were a number of us who, with our children, would gather on the first mild, rainy, night of spring and hand carry salamanders across the road east to west. One year a WBZ/channel 4 Boston television crew captured this annual event which was then featured on “The Today Show”. Now the children who participated are in their 40s and 50s. Thank goodness we recorded the show on a VCR tape! It has been viewed each year to the great delight of our grandchildren. Thank you to all the volunteers that continue to care about the defenseless among us.

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