California newts shut down road in Berkeley’s Tilden Regional Park

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Sorry, speedy bicyclists. Too bad, commuters looking to sneak
around bad traffic on I-80. Tough luck, park visitors. South Park
Drive in Tilden Regional Park is closed to all motor vehicles
through March 31.

reason? Newts. Lots of newts.

The road closure is an annual precaution to protect the
migrating and breeding newts making their way from the summer
habitat to ponds and creeks in the park. Once they arrive, it’s
newt love to the max.

Bicycles are allowed, although riders are asked to go slowly to
avoid newts crossing the road. While dogs may be off-leash on South
Park Drive during the closure, they must be under voice control,
and their owners must carry a leash and use it when necessary.

Newts excrete a neurotoxin that can be fatal, so park rangers
urge dog owners to keep a close eye on their animals. Humans need
to avoid touching the newts, too.

For the non-newtons in the crowd, the East Bay Regional Park
District explains that California newts are a native species of
salamander. They measure 5 to 6 inches long, and during the dry
season they stay in sheltered upland locations, in abandoned rodent
holes, under rocks and logs and anywhere there is moisture.

When winter approaches, the newts leave their homes,
biologically driven to return to the places where they were
spawned, to mate and produce a new generation of newts.

“They respond to the moisture level in the air,” parks
naturalist Trent Pearce explained. “They come out after the
rains, and even after heavy fog.”

Officials said that East Bay Regional Park District is committed
to making park lands accessible to Bay Area residents and guests,
but they also protect sensitive species in the urban landscape. For
the past 20 years, the district, working with UC Berkeley
researchers, have shut down the road to help out the newts.

Those visiting the park can use Grizzly Peak Boulevard, Wildcat
Canyon Road and Central Park Drive to maneuver to favorite park

Newts are not an officially threatened species, but their
population has decreased in the past few decades, mostly because of
habitat loss. Preserving the Tilden population helps maintain the
newt numbers.

Want to know more about newts? Here’s a Q & A with
naturalist Pearce:

Q: How far do these newts travel?

A: Studies have shown some newts are able to
return to their home stream from distances of up to 2.5 miles,
although shorter migrations are more common. Here in Tilden, many
newts cross South Park Drive on their way to Wildcat Creek. Some
also cross Wildcat Canyon Road on their way to the Regional Parks
Botanic Garden, the Tilden Golf Course, and other pools of

Q: What changes do the newts go through in the
breeding season?

A: Male newts change more dramatically than
females. Once in the water, males swell and become bulkier, their
tails become flattened for swimming, and they develop nuptial pads
on their feet for gripping females. Females may develop a slightly
flattened tail.

Q: What do the newts look like when they hatch
from their eggs?

A: When newly hatched, larval newts look
similar to a frog tadpole, but are striped and have external gills.
As they grow, four legs slowly emerge. As summer progresses, they
metamorphose into a terrestrial juvenile (a tiny version of the
adult), changing color, losing their gills and leaving the water to
find an upland retreat.

Q: Where are the newts in the summer?

A: Some newts weather the dry months in rodent
burrows, under rocks and logs, and anywhere moisture is trapped.
Others may remain in their mating pools year round if the pools
stay filled with water.

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Q: How can I help the newts?

A: When traveling on South Park Drive, watch
the ground — especially when cycling. Drive slowly when passing
the Regional Parks Botanic Garden on Wildcat Canyon Road, as many
newts cross in this unprotected area.  And never remove a newt
from the wild. All animals in East Bay Regional Parks are
protected under the park’s ordinance 38.

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Source: FS – All – Interesting – Lifestyle
California newts shut down road in Berkeley’s Tilden Regional Park