I Brake for Newts

Posted by Sandi

Rough-skinned newt on Orcas Island, photo by Bob Friel

Rough-Skinned Newt - photo by Bob Friel

Since we moved to Orcas we’ve cataloged much of the wildlife we’ve seen. It’s reassuring to look back over  the years and see patterns repeating themselves. One of the “events” we track is the spring and fall migration of rough-skinned newts. These critters emerge from their winter hiding places as soon as the conditions are right — temperature and moisture — and head for bodies of water where they lay their eggs.

Newt crossing Channel Road in Deer Harbor, Orcas Island

Newt crossing in Deer Harbor

We live near the Richardson Preserve in Deer Harbor where scores of newts have to cross the road to get to the wetland. They move extremely slowly and, sadly, many get crushed by cars. The other night, I was coming home about 8pm after a rain. The temp was 52 degrees, and my headlights illuminated a number of newts. I stopped my car, put on my flashers, and moved 21 newts across the road! It felt so good to have a measurable impact, regardless how tiny. (Note: rough-skinned newts are deadly poisonous — 10,000 times more toxic than cyanide – and you must wash your hands immediately after handling!)

Newt Crossing sign from Kwiaht

Sign art from Kwiaht

We do have “amphibian crossing” signs erected, but they’re faded and have been there so long they don’t catch  attention. After reading a blog post and article about our local newts by Russel Barsh of Kwiaht – I contacted him to inquire about getting more signs. There’s no money in their budget for the signs but he sent me the artwork and offered to help coordinate. He said indeed that section of road is one of the top 3 or 4 “worst traffic locations” in San Juan County for newt accidents. I’m confident I can pull together donations from our caring community members for new signs. In the meantime, if you’re driving in an area near a wetland, please pay close attention to the little ones just trying to make it across the road. Long live the Newts!

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Filed under Nature

4 Responses to I Brake for Newts

  1. didn’t know about the newts! you are a good person, indeed, to have helped the little critters cross the road. the art work for the sign is fantastic. what does one sign cost? i’ll stop by the office to contribute.

  2. Who Newt? Ok, that’s bad, but your story is terrific!

    • We can always count on that CB humor! I’ll let you know where the big “crossings” are on Lopez — just don’t let Ruby nibble on them!