March 31, 2014

Roadside Rescue

By Eric D'Aleo

Flickr/Linda Ruth
Okay, it’s time I came out and admitted it. Spring is not my favorite time of year. Actually let me rephrase it, parts of spring are not my favorite time of year. What I’m referring to are the cold, raw, wet dreary days in April when I am craving sun but all that nature can muster is a gray, overcast day with rain in the forecast. Don’t get me wrong, I like rain but after a long winter of cold temperatures I’m ready to skip the rain for a while and move into warmer, sunnier weather. I have the feeling that I’m not alone in this thought. However, a recent experience had me reconsider my point of view.
I was driving one evening last year in April and the weather was not the best. It was cold and raw from rain earlier in the day and a fog was creeping out from the fields across the road, into the woods, making the night time driving difficult by obscuring my vision. I slowed down and switched my lights to low beam to avoid blinding an oncoming car. There were puddles all over the road and I grumbled noting that the heavy rain would mean parts of my yard would become mini reservoirs for the next week because of its poor drainage. I focused my eyes upon the side of the road to avoid the approaching bright lights of the car and I could see branches and debris had been scattered about by the wind. The other car’s tires ran through a large puddle and splashed a small piece of wood into the air.

Suddenly, what moments before had appeared as a piece of bark grew legs as it lifted into the air and landed several feet away, directly in front of my car. Now I could see the bulging eyes and dark mask of a wood frog. I braked and slowed the car down hoping that I had avoided the animal when I saw several other frogs in front of me. This time I served in an attempt to avoid the frogs but I couldn’t miss all of them. I knew that the road was used quite often at night so I decided to pull on to the shoulder and get out to help. It was hard to find the frogs since the headlights did not illuminate much of the road and I quickly determined that I was putting myself and the frogs at risk and that I was not properly dressed.

I climbed back into the car and drove home to put on a reflective vest, and waterproof boots and to grab a flashlight before heading back into the dampness of the night. I carefully drove back the next mile to where the frogs were still crossing the road and found a small turnaround to park in. Once away from the car I could see the frogs moving across the road from the woods to the wetland where they would breed. I checked the road for oncoming traffic and then walked out and spotted a frog with my flashlight. I picked it up, noting how cold it felt, as I crossed to the wetland. Many of the frogs jumped before I could catch them or managed to escape from my hand, making me marvel at how these cold-blooded animals could respond more quickly than I could as my hands soon became numb. I spent the next forty minutes helping numerous frogs cross the road, moving to the side when there was approaching traffic. As the cars passed I imagined what people might have said if they knew I was out walking the road trying to rescue frogs. So, keep an eye out on wet spring nights and slow down for the crossing of frogs and the people that may be assisting them. 

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