03/09/2012 08:40 EST | Updated 05/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Salamander Detour Set Up On Burlington Road


A salamander detour has been set up in Burlington to create safe passage for the endangered amphibians, which otherwise risk being squashed by cars and foot traffic.

Only about 100 Jefferson salamanders — or "Jeffys", as they're commonly known — are stil living in the forest near a stretch of road up the Niagara Escarpment.

With a lifespan of only 30 years, the slithery creatures are a precious part of the local ecosystem, but experts say they inhabit one of the only areas in Ontario where they must cross the road to breed. In this case, it's a portion of King Road that ferries some 1,500 cars on a typical day.

Conservation Halton wants to make sure the salamanders can freely scamper from their winter homes to lay eggs in the ponds across the street.

"There were egg masses within the pools that would confirm that last night, there were some movement activities," Leslie Matich, with Conservation Halton, told CBC News on Friday.

Caution against stepping on salamanders

"It's just ingrained within them to keep going back over to the same pool every single year to breed."

So Burlington's city council recently agreed to close a stretch of road nearby, reasoning that losing one Jeffy could be devastating to their survival.

There were no objections from local politicians, said Burlington mayor Rick Goldring.

"We considered crossing guards, but that wasn't going to work," he said.

Finding the Jeffies is hard work, as they prefer to travel at night, so keeping the road clear is critical.

As for those planning to do some salamander sleuthing to find a Jeffy on their own, Conservation Halton stressed caution, saying that many of the salamanders are killed every year because they're accidentally stepped on.