Ben Roberts, Zoological Manager
Many animals have routines they go through each fall and winter as the days get shorter and the temperature cools down. Almost everyone is familiar with bears hibernating and birds flying south for the winter but not many people realize reptiles and amphibians have routines too.
During the fall, as the weather cools down, many reptiles become more active while they look for safe areas to spend the winter months. Snakes are looking for safe areas near places that will warm up during the afternoon and stay cool during the day. Because many roads sit in direct sunlight most of the day they serve as an excellent heat source during the early evening hours to reptiles to warm up on.
Many amphibians (frogs and salamanders) native to the area breed during the cooler winter months. During this time, they move from pool to pool looking for suitable breeding grounds and potential mates. Most amphibians prefer water sources that will only last for around a week or two at the most because they don’t have fish and other animals that would eat the tadpoles. Roadside ditches often meet all these needs.
The common setting in all of these situations is the road. Many of these animals will join the countless opossum, fox, armadillo, and deer who become victims of vehicles using the road at the same time they are. Please use caution when driving at night and, when it’s safe to do so, allow the animals to cross safely too. They all provide an invaluable roll in the ecosystem.