Wonderful World of Wildlife Crossings: Henry Street Salamander Tunnels

By Arc Solutions
June 27, 2024

Wonderful World of Wildlife Crossings: Henry Street Salamander Tunnels

Massachusetts | ARC Solutions

Road: Henry Street
Structures: Two Culverts
Target Species: Spotted Salamander

This article was originally published with images in ARC Solutions.

One of the oldest amphibian crossings in the United States has been helping yellow spotted salamanders cross the road for more than 35 years. In Amherst, Massachusetts, two small tunnels help these hefty salamanders—up to ten inches in length—and other local amphibians such as wood frogs and spring peeper frogs cross under Henry Street. This two-lane road cuts between the salamander’s upland habitat, where they spend most of their lives, and vernal pools where they congregate every spring to breed and lay their eggs. The salamanders migrate to the vernal pools during the first warm, rainy nights of spring and then move back to the uplands.

The two tunnels were built in 1987. Amherst resident, Bob Winston (known as Commander Salamander) was instrumental in their implementation including by garnering funding from the Royal Flora and Fauna Society of Great Britain and ACO Polymer in Germany. Landowners on both sides of the road, W.D. Cowls Inc. and the Jones Family, allowed the project to be built on their land. Other project partners included Hitchcock Center for the Environment, Amherst Department of Public Works, University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Audubon Society, and local residents. Like most successful crossing projects, public-private partnership made it happen.

The pre-cast concrete tunnels are six inches wide and 12 inches tall. Slots in the top allow some water into the tunnels as salamanders prefer a wet surface to move across. The tunnels are placed approximately 200 feet apart and include concrete retaining walls that adjoin ‘drift’ fencing— nine to 18 inch tall mesh fencing that guides salamanders to tunnel entrances.

Today, the Hitchcock Center for the Environment coordinates eager volunteers to clean out and around the tunnels and associated infrastructure every spring as well as help ‘lost’ salamanders find their way to the other side of the road on ‘big nights’ (peak migration nights) during spring migration. In recent years the City of Amherst has allowed the road to be closed for several nights, which has helped reduce salamander mortality for those that don’t find their way to and through the tunnels.


This article was originally published with ARC Solutions.

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Hitchcock Center for the Environment