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Contact: Robert Cook, Ph.D., Wildlife Ecologist, 508 487 3262 x 206
Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent George E. Price Jr. has announced that Cape Cod National Seashore is planning intermittent closures of Province Lands Road at night to conduct research on Eastern spadefoot toads, a threatened species in Massachusetts.
The Province Lands area supports the most significant population of this species in the northeastern United States. Many toads cross roads during the breeding season while foraging on rainy nights, and hundreds of individuals may be run over on a single night. Since 2003, the seashore has occasionally closed Province Lands Road, heavily used by spadefoot toads on rainy nights in spring and summer, in an attempt to minimize the number of toads killed. While this practice has helped reduce road kill, predicting in advance when there will be heavy toad activity has been challenging. The seashore needs more detailed data on toad activity and the environmental and seasonal factors that influence it in order to protect the toads. e goal of this research is to analyze seasonal and nightly patterns of spadefoot toad activity on Province Lands Road, and to develop a model to predict their activity based on factors such as rain, temperature, groundwater levels, and date. This will be the second year of this research project.
Research will begin in mid-April and extend into August, and will be conducted on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights, plus any night when heavy rains are forecast. On most of these nights, Province Lands Road will be closed from sunset until 1 AM. On nights with heavy rain and significant toad activity, data will be collected until sunrise to better understand activity patterns over the course of the night.
Although this research will temporarily close Province Lands Road at night, it will not affect visitor access. Race Point Road, the primary access route to Provincetown Airport, Race Point Beach, and ORV access will remain open. The primary access to Herring Cove Beach from Route 6 also will not be affected. All destinations within the seashore that are open at night to public visitation will continue to be open. Superintendent Price said, “In our increasingly more human-dominated landscape, rare and unique natural phenomena such as the breeding habits of the spadefoot toads of the Province Lands have become restricted to habitats such as those provided by Cape Cod National Seashore. Our duty is to protect park wildlife, and to do so effectively, we need to base our decisions and operations on systematically collected data. This research project will enable us to better understand patterns of spadefoot toad activity and the factors that influence it. Public response to our past efforts to reduce road kill at night on Province Lands Road has been very positive. I hope that park visitors and area residents will continue to support us in our difficult task of protecting park wildlife while providing for public access.”
For more information about this research project, contact Robert Cook, Ph.D., Wildlife Ecologist, Cape Cod National Seashore, 508-487-3262 x 106.