In North America’s Snowiest Place, Residents Dig Out as Tourists Flow In

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As you know, California is experiencing one of its wettest winters in recent history.

In Petaluma, north of San Francisco, the rain has been a boon for newts. The torrential downpours spurred thousands of California and rough-skinned newts to emerge from their burrows and set out in search of a lake, stream, pond or puddle to breed in. And for the first time in many years, the newts have a plethora of water bodies to choose from.

What the newts need now is a safe way to get to their rendezvous points. Newts can be killed by cars as they try to cross roads that separate them from their breeding grounds.

But don’t worry, humans are here to help.

For the past four years, volunteers have spent their winter nights shepherding newts across a one-mile stretch of Chileno Valley Road, a winding country road in the hills of Petaluma. They call themselves the Chileno Valley Newt Brigade, and their founder, Sally Gale, says they will keep showing up until the newts no longer need them.

On busy nights, as many as 24 volunteers gather on the road.

“It’s such a huge cross-section of people, and we haven’t met a bad one yet,” said Katie Brammer, a graphic designer and newt brigade captain. Among her fellow volunteers are schoolteachers, students, naturalists, business owners and retirees.

Brammer and her husband, Rick Stubblefield, have been newt brigade captains for just over a year. They say the charisma of the newts got them hooked on helping. “California newts are quite endearing,” Brammer said. “They hold onto your hand as you’re carrying them across the road.”

Read more from The Times.


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