Why did the newt cross the road?
MMMM…. I would have thought that our favourite local newt would have several good lines for that! Our Cortes Island newts are the rough-skinned newt, which have several very interesting characteristics, including the ability to let a few punch lines roll off their tough-skin.
First some background on the species. Rough-skinned newts are known scientifically as Taricha granulosa granulosa. They are semi aquatic, living mostly on land but moving to stagnant water (marshes) to mate. Their skin is brown on top and bright orange underneath. As with other bright-coloured amphibians, the newt has a unique defense system. They create a toxin that predators can sense, and want to avoid. The toxin itself is only experienced when eaten. When ingested by a predator, usually the common garter snake, the newt’s toxin creates a chemical signature in the predator which other newts can detect and so avoid the snake. In the case of a close-call, the newt has the ability to regenerate body parts!
When the urge to spend some time with a friend in springtime comes around, their well-known rough skin exterior becomes smooth and they make their move. The newt’s ideal mating grounds, is stagnant marshy water. This habitat is usually found in a flat, level landscape, which so happens to be a good place to build roads. It is no surprise that this is exactly what the inhabitants of Cortes Island have done. The result of this meeting of newts and cars, is that many newts are killed on their way to a rendezvous. This carnage, besides the loss of many newts, had many local drivers upset. Enter the newt sign project.
Our Cortes Island newt X-ing signs were put by the roadsides where newts would be crossing so locals could stop, pick them up, and carry them across the road (hopefully in the right direction). Newt crossing signs were made, first by school kids and then installed by road crews. These unique signs were submitted to a Strange Sign contest put on by the national broadcaster CBC, and our signs made the top three most interesting signs in the country!
Featured Image: Robin Loznak Photography
Post Images: Joseph Uyenda (Flickr),