100 Public Comments: Speaking for the Imperiled Newts of Santa Clara County’s Lexington Reservoir

Concerned Citizens Fight to Reverse Local Extinction Trend, Seek Volunteers


Photo credit: Robin Agarwal

Over 100 heartfelt comments were read out loud, one by one, into the public record Wednesday night at the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District’s Board of Directors’ meeting as more and more stakeholders speak up for measures to mitigate the ongoing roadkill massacre of two species of Pacific Newts in Santa Clara County.


The online-only meeting ran well over time as dozens of concerned Santa Clara County citizens and representatives of local and national conservation organizations such as Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, The Sierra Club, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, and the Center for Biological Diversity weighed in on the ongoing environmental crisis.


Local extinction is a horrifyingly real possibility if measures are not enacted quickly. About 5,000 dead newts per year are documented on a four-mile stretch of Alma Bridge Road near Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos, California, and some researchers believe this number is undercounted. A recent Midpen study showed that population numbers are dropping precipitously, and another study, with meticulous longer-term data, indicates the real numbers could be even worse.


“The modeled population extinction curve for the newts of the Lexington Reservoir area shows that local extinction is predicted in about 50 years, but the decimation of the population to a small fraction of its 2020-2021 numbers can be expected to happen within about 15 years,” writes Deb Kramer, Executive Director and Board Member of Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful. “This level of roadkill in conjunction with climate change highlights the importance of quick solutions to help the newts avoid local extinction.”


“Last night’s outpouring of support was a gratifying step towards real action that will save the lives of thousands of newts,” said Dr. Merav Vonshak, founder of the Bioblitz Club and director of Newt Patrol, the all-volunteer, community science survey organization that has been photo-documenting the newt massacre since 2017. “We look forward to working with Midpen and others as they develop mitigation solutions as quickly as possible to save these charming and iconic little creatures.”


Newt Patrol warmly welcomes new survey volunteers interested in helping save the newts. Armed with a smartphone and a ruler, volunteers in bright yellow, newt-emblazoned vests walk one of two scenic stretches of Alma Bridge Road, photographing newts (both dead and alive) along the way. These geotagged photos are uploaded afterwards to the Pacific Newt Roadkill Project on iNaturalist.org.


Dr. Vonshak thanked Dr. Shani Kleinhaus from SCVAS, Dashiell Leeds from the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club, Dr. Tiffany Yap from CBD, and Deb Kramer from KCCB for their support last night in raising awareness of the newts’ plight to the Board of Directors at the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District. “It takes a community effort to raise awareness,” she said. “With the help of these engaged organizations, and the people behind them, we will continue to move forward.”


For more information on Newt Patrol and the science behind the newts: https://www.bioblitz.club/newts or #LexNewtPatrol on Instagram.

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