Updated: May 3
In November 2017, Anne Parsons, a citizen scientist and Midpeninsula Regional Open Space trail patrol volunteer, noticed many dead newts on Alma Bridge Rd. near Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos. She started documenting the dead newts on iNaturalist.org and recorded a full migration season the next year (2018-2019) to bring attention to the roadkill problem. She walked the road twice a week (the full 4 miles on the weekend and a 2-mile section mid-week). Merav Vonshak, Ph.D. joined her in January 2019. Together they documented 4,883 dead newts that season. For the 2019-2020 season, a group of five volunteers surveyed the road, documenting 5,277 dead newts. We are currently surveying the road for the 4th season (2020-2021). If you’d like to join us, you can reach out on iNaturalist or here.
Many people visit the Lexington Reservoir area for its hiking trail, fishing, and the Los Gatos Rowing Club. There are a few residential houses that use the road to access their homes. In addition, large gravel trucks drive part of the road to get to the Vulcan Quarry. Most people are unaware of the newt roadkill problem. On February 2020 the county installed permanent “Newt crossing” signs, replacing the temporary signs made by volunteers. Unfortunately that didn’t help the newts, and a similar number of dead newts was counted that year.
In other places with high amphibian mortality, volunteers help amphibians cross roads, seasonal road closures, or special crossings are implemented. We are hopeful that one day we will be able to reduce the the newt mortality on Alma Bridge Rd. by implementing mitigation and save thousands of lives in order to protect these special animals.