Every year when the rainy season starts, Tilden Regional Park closes a road to allow for the safe passage of local amphibians.
Beginning November and until April 1, the East Bay Regional Park District will close South Park Drive in Tilden to allow for the safe migration of the Taricha torosa — more commonly known as the California newt.
Morgan Evans, an interpretive student aide at the Tilden Nature Area, said the newts travel great distances to return to the ponds where they were born in order to mate with other newts.
“Usually, they are in a state called aestivation up in the hills where they spend the summer months,” she said. “Once it starts to rain, then they start migrating back to the ponds where they were born originally.”
Park district representative Isa Polt-Jones said there have been calls from Berkeley residents to close the road earlier because of the recent rain in the city causing the newts to begin migrating, but there currently is not a pressing need to do so.
“We really regret any harm coming to the newts, and we all hate to see any of them get injured,” she said. “But there’s always this balancing act where we have to allow public access and still try to protect the newts at least for most of their mating season.”
Polt-Jones said the road becomes a sort of trail during the winter months when it is closed to motorists, allowing dog walkers, bicyclists and joggers onto the path.
In the 1970s, park rangers opened and closed the road every time it rained but found that the method was not very efficient and time consuming, she said. It was then decided by the park board of directors that the road would be closed for a certain of time while the newts migrate during the rainy season.
“One of the naturalists went with a jar, collected a huge amount of dead newts and took it to the board of directors years ago — that’s when they decided to close the road,” Evans said.
Contact Andy Nguyen at [email protected].