Salamanders Get $284K Tunnel

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Some salamanders have all the luck: The threatened long-toed salamanders in Alberta's Waterton Lakes National Park (adjacent to Glacier) are set to receive a $284,000 "tunnel of love" that will spare them from a quick and squishy death. Linnet Lake in Waterton Lakes serves as a historic breeding ground for the amorous amphibians, but they have to cross a busy roadway from their winter grounds to get there.

If they manage to avoid zooming SUV's, they'll mate and lay eggs in the lake. But then the salamanders have to cross back after they're done doing the deed, creating a dubious double chance for death by Ford Expedition. Roadside casualties for Canadian long-toed salamanders are high every year in this spot.

“It’s certainly one area that we’ve known there was a problem, so from the standpoint of maintaining ecological integrity, this is very important,” said Cyndi Smith, ecosystem scientist with the park.

Park officials expect construction on four under-road tunnels to last 10 days if weather holds. Wildlife managers will have access to time-lapse video footage to ensure the salamanders are using their nearly $300,000 gift. If the salamanders don't use the tunnels, park officials could have to provide other means of safeguarding them. There's been no word yet on what those means might be, but personally I'm hoping for either a salamander-sized suspension bridge and/or shuttle-bus service.

Wait till the bullfrogs in the Everglades hear about this— they are going to be positively green with envy.

— Ted Alvarez

Long-toed salamanders get “tunnel to love” at Waterton Lakes National Park (Daily Commercial News)