To protect migrating California newts that make their annual trip from dry land to streams and ponds to breed, South Park Drive in Tilden Regional Park will be closed to automobile traffic from October 31 to March 31, 2015. Visitors can still drive through the park during this time by using Grizzly Peak Blvd., Wildcat Canyon Road, and Central Park Drive.
“We are doing what we can to help protect these tiny, slow-moving park residents,” said Tilden Park Supervisor Sergio Huerta. “Pedestrians and bicycles are allowed, and we ask everyone to proceed slowly and carefully to avoid newts crossing the road.”
The newt is a type of salamander five to six inches long, brown on top and a gold-bronze color below. It remains dormant in the dry season living in woods and other sheltered upland places. During the winter and rainy season, the newts migrate across South Park Drive to reach Wildcat Creek for breeding. For more than 20 years, and after conducting studies with U.C. Berkeley to understand the impact cars had on the newt population, the Park District has closed South Park Drive to protect migrating newts from cars.
Bicycles, hikers, and visitors with dogs are welcomed to use this road during the migrating season. But it is important that dogs are kept away from the newts, because these small amphibians have a substance on their skin that is mildly poisonous to people and other animals. If you accidentally come in contact with a newt, you should always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Although not an officially threatened species, newts are protected by law; it is illegal to collect them and remove them from the wild. And they don't live long outside their natural habitat.
Tilden Environmental Education Center offers many programs throughout the season to observe this migration. For more information on naturalists-led newt programs, visit http://www.ebparks.org/activities/naturalists.
The East Bay Regional Park District is a system of beautiful public parks and trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties east of San Francisco Bay, established in 1934. The system comprises 114,000+ acres in 65 parks including over 1,200 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature learning.
Ana Machuca-Cole, Acting Public Information Supervisor