photo of a California Newt

Newts

Two species of newts can commonly be found in Midpen preserves: the California newt (Taricha torosa) and the rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa). Here is how to tell the two very similar-looking newt species apart:

Image
photo of a rough-skinned newt

Rough-Skinned Newt

  • Has gray skin at the bottom of its eye
  • Has eyes that do not protrude beyond the edge of the jaw line when viewed from above
  • Tail curls over when newt adopts its defensive posture. 
  • Lays eggs singly
Image
California newt

California Newt

  • Has orange skin around the bottom of its eye
  • Has eyes that protrude beyond the edge of the jaw line when viewed from above
  • Tail bends back/sticks straight backward when the newt adopts its defensive posture
  • Lays eggs in masses

Alma Bridge Road and Newts

Midpen partnered with Peninsula Open Space Trust and other agencies to conduct a newt population and road-related mortality study along Alma Bridge Road near Lexington Reservoir from November 2020 to March 2021. The research report estimates that, of the nearly 14,000 adult California newts that attempted to cross the road from their dry-season upland foraging habitat to their rainy-season breeding grounds during the survey period, almost 40% were killed by vehicles.

 

The Alma Bridge Road-Related Newt Mortality Study builds on several years of community science data collection. We are grateful for the volunteers and advocacy groups who brought this issue to our attention.

Although Midpen does not have jurisdiction over Alma Bridge Road, we are committed to working with regional partners to identify corrective actions, provide funding and support the implementation of long-term solutions to reduce road-related newt mortality. Potential interventions currently under investigation include, but are not limited to:  

  • at-grade amphibian crossing(s) embedded in the road surface 
  • retrofitting existing culvert(s) to enhance newt movement  
  • elevated road section(s) to allow passage of migrating newts beneath the roadway  
  • directional fencing to guide animals to potential crossing-improvement(s).

Participating organizations include:

  • Community scientists
  • Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department
  • Santa Clara County Parks Department 
  • Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
  • Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST)
  • Valley Water
  • Audubon Society
  • Sierra Club
  • Center for Biological Diversity
  • Road Ecology Center at University of California Davis
  • US Geologic Survey 
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Additional information about this project can be found in the report and presentation from the September 23, 2020 Board of Directors Meeting at which staff requested authorization to enter into a funding agreement with Peninsula Open Space Trust to conduct the newt mortality and population study.

If I see migrating newts on the trail, what should I do?

  • Do not remove newts. They do not make good pets and they secrete a powerful neurotoxin through their skin to repel predators. This poison can cause death in many animals, including humans, if ingested.
  • Do not handle local newts, instead pass slowly and alert other trail users. Although some newts are not able to successfully cross a road or trail, many do make it as evidenced by the ongoing migrations seen each year.
  • Report newt observations using community science tools such as iNaturalist, which Midpen uses along with other sources to determine where migrations occur and to identify areas of conflict where dead newts are observed.

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