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Watch for scaled friends on Wisconsin roadways

New efforts are underway to help Wisconsin’s “creepy crawlies” – native frogs, salamanders, lizards and snakes – from perishing under the wheels of cars and trucks. Wisconsin residents and visitors are asked to report road crossings where the reptiles and amphibians are found, dead or alive, to help better understand where their populations occur and to save more of them in the future.

“Our goal is to fill in gaps of where these animals are found in Wisconsin, and how they’re doing in the state, so we can better protect them,” said Rich Staffen, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program zoologist. “We also want to identify high road mortality areas, where we can work to incorporate mitigation efforts to diminish the threats to them.”

Rori Paloski, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation biologist, says reducing road kills can help protect Wisconsin’s herptiles. The term herptile encompasses amphibians and reptiles.

“Most amphibians and reptiles migrate between different habitats throughout the year, which unfortunately means they must often cross roads,” said Paloski. “Road crossings pose challenges for animals, but it is also a time when citizens are most likely to see the animals and can therefore help us gather information.”

The roadkill reporting effort for snakes, salamanders, lizards and frogs, is modeled after DNR’s well-established Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program, which encourages people to report particularly deadly road crossings for turtles. Since that effort started in 2012, people have provided nearly 3,000 turtle crossing location reports and the DNR has identified 47 of those sites as particularly deadly for turtles.

Through that effor, the DNR has worked with partners to reduce mortality rates in those locations.

Many snake populations have declined in Wisconsin, from habitat loss and human persecution; 13 of Wisconsin’s 21 snake species are considered “rare,” and listed as endan- gered, threatened or special concern.

“Snakes play very important roles in many ecosystems as predator and prey, and they help farmers by keeping graineating mammals in check,” said Staffen. “They also reduce disease threats posed by high rodent populations.”

Three of Wisconsin’s four lizard species are in trouble, including the legless and endangered slender glass lizard.

Wisconsin is home to 12 species of frogs, including the American toad. A few species have relatively stable populations, but many have declined throughout the state, because of habitat destruction and fragmentation.

Wisconsin has seven different species of salamanders, and one considered “special concern,” because of uncertain population numbers. These secretive animals are often undetected by humans, but live most of their lives on land, returning to aquatic habitats only for breeding.

The new reporting form is now available on the DNR’s reptiles and amphibians webpage.