Road salt a threat to Binghamton University wildlife

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VESTAL (WBNG) — Yellow spotted salamanders on the Binghamton University campus face challenges while migrating each year.

That’s because they cross Connector Road on campus, to get from the woods to Harpur Pond where they lay eggs.

Binghamton University has been accommodating to keep its population of yellow spotted salamanders safe.

In the past, the university has closed down the road, and even built ramps on the curbs to help the species walk across the street.

But with a winter that causes road preparations to be made, the most recent struggle for the amphibians may be road salt.

“Amphibians typically breathe through their skin. And also in the larval stage they’re stuck in the water, so they’re used to fresh water,” said assistant professor of biology Jessica Hua.

“They are slimy, wet things and their skin is moist. If you put salt on it, salt kind of draws the moisture out of their skin and they will actually suffer from dehydration,” said associate professor of biology Julian Shepherd.

Hua has done research on how the salts are impacting other amphibians, like frogs on campus.

She says it’s important to protect any wildlife in the area.

“You never know when you lose members of a particular community, things cascade. You take out an amphibian, but then that’s going to affect what eats the amphibian, and then that’s going to affect, eventually down the line,
humans,” said Hua.

But she says it’s just as important, if not more, to protect drivers.

“The bottom line is we need road salt to protect our road safety. And so I think it’s a matter of balance, so you have to balance the research and what we know about it and get that word out but also we need to communicate more clearly with the people who are working to protect our roadways,” said Hua.

Binghamton is taking steps to balance the issue.

A sign that reads, “reduced salt area” is posted right on Connector Road.

Annabelle Flaherty

Annabelle Flaherty

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