Saving salamanders, 1 road closure at a time

A portion of Peter White Drive at Presque Isle Park in Marquette is closed to facilitate the migration of blue-spotted salamanders and cut down on their mortality. The salamanders migrate across the road to reach their breeding ponds this time of year. (Photo courtesy of the Superior Watershed Partnership)

MARQUETTE — The city of Marquette continues to make the area safer for salamanders.

The city has again closed a portion of Peter White Drive in Presque Isle Park to facilitate the safe migration of blue-spotted salamanders.

The southwest bend of Peter White Drive from the MooseWood Nature Center to the gate north of the large pavilion is closed to vehicular traffic from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily until April 15 or until the migration is completed, the city announced. The closure began on Monday.

Road barricades will be placed and removed on a daily basis to prevent vehicular use of the migration area. Foot traffic, however, is permitted in the area during regular park hours.

“Protecting the blue-spotted salamanders’ migration is vital, as they are an indicator species, informing us about the health of our environment,” said Kathleen Henry, Superior Watershed Partnership special projects coordinator and education specialist, in an email.

In 2018, former Northern Michigan University student Eli Bieri noticed vehicles were killing hundreds of migrating salamanders, who were traveling from the park interior to their breeding ponds. Concerned over their mortality, Bieri was instrumental in getting the city to close part of Peter White Drive during the migration season.

Henry said the city first closed the road in 2020, and as a result, had only three confirmed mortalities that year.

SWP, which has an office along Peter White Drive, has been involved with the salamander initiative.

In fact, SWP has released a flyer that lists ways to “enjoy the Presque Isle Park annual migration.”

The best conditions for viewing the salamanders, it says, are during full darkness with drizzle or rain while temperatures are in the mid-30s to mid-40s.

SWP recommends parking in designated areas only. When walking in the area, it suggests using a flashlight or headlamp, staying on the pavement and, of course, watching your step.

Obviously, only foot traffic — not even bicycle traffic — is allowed.

Also, it might be tempting to pick up a salamander for a better look, but SWP officials advise to “look but please don’t touch.”

Salamander Days

The city of Marquette is holding Salamander Days events this spring, with a variety of activities related to the amphibians.

Throughout this month, the Peter White Public Library will offer opportunities to create salamander-themed crafts in the Maker Space during the library’s public hours. The library is located at 217 N. Front St., Marquette.

A Signs of Spring non-juried 2D art exhibit will run from April 1 to June 10 during public hours at City Hall in Marquette, located at 300 W. Baraga Ave.

The Marquette Arts and Culture Center, located in the lower level of the Peter White Public Library, will host a senior arts program as part of Salamander Days from 1 to 3 p.m. April 13 and April 27. Call 906-228-0472 to register.

The Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum, 123 W. Baraga Ave., Marquette, will host a special Second Thursday Creativity Series from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 14. Youngsters can celebrate springtime amphibians with frog poetry and salamander-themed painting. Call 906-226-3911 for more information.

MooseWood Nature Center will hold a habitat hike at 6:30 p.m. April 16. The event will be a guided, family-friendly interpretive Bog Walk hike focusing on reptiles and amphibians.

The SWP has planned science programming at 8 p.m. Wednesdays once the migration begins. A start date has yet to be determined.

Visit superiorwatersheds.org for more details.

For more information on the events, visit www.MQTcompass.com/salamander-days/.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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