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Road In East Brunswick, N.J. To Close For Salamander Crossing

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- When someone mentions salamanders, you might think of fantastical mythological creatures that can live in fire.

But real salamanders cannot live in fire, nor can they live among speeding vehicles on dangerous roads. So as CBS 2's John Slattery reported, a road in East Brunswick, N.J., was closed Wednesday night into Thursday so the salamanders could cross for their annual migration.

You have surely seen road signs for a deer crossing, and maybe even a coyote crossing, but while a salamander crossing may seem more esoteric, motorists don't seem to object to the closure of a mile of Beekman Road.

"I think it's good, protecting wildlife around here," said motorist Scott Vandermark. "Otherwise, people would drive right over them."

The specific amphibian crossing the road is a spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), a 5- to 7-inch long amphibian that can live for 30 years. And the salamanders cross the road at this time of year.

"This is perfect salamander weather – wet, cool, misty," said Dave Moskowitz, head of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission.

Ten years ago, Moskowitz got officials to shut down the mile stretch of Beekman Road into South Brunswick. It's a road that separates salamanders' wooded hibernation area from their breeding pools. Before the road was closed, there was road kill.

"It's a huge problem, and we would have hundreds dead on the road," Moskowitz said. "It was a slaughter on the road."

The nighttime closures that began Tuesday were to continue off and on for four to eight days, allowing the salamanders to make their trek. CBS 2's Dick Brennan, along with several local residents intrigued by the whole idea, went out looking for the amphibians on Wednesday night, but didn't have much luck finding them.

"Well, this is upsetting. I was expecting hundreds, coming in," said Laurie Tompkins of Spottswood.

"This might be as exciting as Al Capone's vault," added Roger Lindgren of East Brunswick.

The migration, which usually takes place in March, is extended over the next few days because of the warmer weather and recent rain.

The annual road closure will continue, because the little critters take the same route to the same pools every year.

Do you think the road should be closed for salamander crossing? Leave your comments below...

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