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Barbara Palmer, News Service: (650) 724-6184,

Work to protect California tiger salamanders begins at Dish

Construction began Sept. 8 in the Dish area near the Gerona Gate to create new breeding habitat to help protect a population of California tiger salamanders living in the foothills. Over the next seven weeks, the California Tiger Salamander Habitat Restoration Project will create eight to nine new ponds and add three tunnels for migrating salamanders under Junipero Serra Boulevard.

The salamanders live in upland areas most of the year, but during breeding season, which occurs after the first heavy rains in fall, they migrate at night to seasonal pools of water such as Lake Lagunita. The reservoir makes an ideal breeding habitat for the species -- except for its location, said campus biologist Alan Launer. Currently, salamanders living south of Junipero Serra Boulevard migrate across the county road to breed and many are killed by motorists.

Campus biologists have worked for nearly a decade on a plan to create breeding habitat to keep migrating salamanders on the south side of the road. The new ponds will vary in size and structure and will serve as habitat for a wide range of plants and wildlife, including tree frogs, frogs and Western toads, in addition to salamanders.

In mid-August, students and staff completed the first stage of the habitat restoration project by salvaging 12,000 native plants from areas where the ponds and channels are planned. The native plant material, now being watered in a plant facility on Alpine Road, will be replanted in the new breeding habitat sites later this fall. Biologists have been working in the Dish area to restore native vegetation and reduce invasive, nonnative plant material.

The restoration project also includes the installation of three tunnels for the salamanders under Junipero Serra Boulevard. One salamander tunnel previously was installed under the roadway in 2001. The salamanders typically cross along a stretch of road from one-half to three-quarters of a mile long, Launer said.

Gerona Gate and Junipero Serra Boulevard will remain open during the construction of the ponds and the installation of the tunnels. Inside the Dish area, temporary fencing will direct hikers and joggers around affected areas.

The California Tiger Salamander Habitat Restoration Project has received approval from Santa Clara County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.


By Barbara Palmer

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