An eastern newt crosses the road at night. Courtesy photo/Greg LeClair

CAPE ELIZABETH – As winter finally comes to an end, anticipation builds for the annual spectacle known as Maine Big Night (MBN) – the mass migration of frogs and salamanders. Guided by temperature and rainfall, these amphibians embark on a journey from winter refuges to breeding grounds, signaling the onset of a crucial breeding season.

Greg LeClair, the creator of the Maine Big Night, is a graduate student in ecology and environmental science at the University of Maine. He coordinates the collection of statewide data on Maine’s amphibian migrations.

According to, in 2003, LeClair, aged 7, encountered his first spotted salamander on a rainy April night. This sparked his passion for amphibians and led him to start rescuing them from roads. In 2018, during his senior year of college, LeClair initiated the Maine Big Night project to protect amphibians in his local town. The project recorded nearly 50 amphibians, gaining media coverage and raising awareness about the issue of road mortality for these species.

Although the phrase “big night” suggests a single occurrence, this event typically happens several times annually. In Maine, these significant nights usually take place from early to mid-April. They are prompted by thawed ground, nighttime temperatures surpassing 40 degrees , and sufficient precipitation to moisten the ground.

Maine Big Night is a nonprofit community science project established to help save amphibians from getting hit by cars on roads. Through meticulous observation and data collection, MBN volunteers contribute to our understanding of migration patterns and the challenges faced by amphibians, particularly in the context of human infrastructure.

Amphibians, already under considerable threat compared to other wildlife, are particularly susceptible to localized declines caused by roadkill incidents, especially during their annual migrations. The organization coordinates volunteers to aid these animals in safely crossing roads, gathering crucial data to safeguard their populations for generations to come.


Maine Big Night is a community-driven effort, spearheaded by volunteers dedicated to safeguarding amphibians during their migration. Ali Gustavson, representing the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, emphasized the project’s significance, saying, “Maine Big Night is a nonprofit community science project established to confront the issue of amphibians becoming roadkill en masse.”

The urgency of the mission is underscored by the perilous challenges amphibians face while crossing roads. “31.89% of the 5,732 amphibians detected during the 2021 surveys – across 185 sites with 737 hours of effort – were found dead,” revealed data from Maine Big Night, highlighting the need for proactive conservation measures.

Hope prevails through citizen engagement, as volunteers unite to assist amphibians in navigating their journey safely.

“Mainers are known for being rugged, and in this project, that notion shines through. Every spring, our project volunteers endure rain, cold, and late nights to ensure as many frogs and salamanders cross roads as possible,” said Gustavson.

Gustavson said beyond its ecological significance, Maine Big Night serves as a reminder of the resilience ingrained within Maine’s amphibians. The collaborative spirit fostered by organizations like the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust and Thomas Memorial Library amplifies the impact of Maine Big Night, providing a platform for community members to actively participate in safeguarding biodiversity.

As the amphibians embark on their annual journey, volunteers are encouraged to join monitoring efforts, contributing invaluable data for understanding amphibian populations and migration behaviors.


The way to volunteer is to first make sure  you’re able to safely be near roads and complete our certification process. Here’s a straightforward roadmap to becoming certified and getting involved:

1. Finish the online training.
2.Ace the certification quiz.
3.Sign a waiver.
4.Gear up with safety equipment.
5.Obtain certification.
6.Choose and take charge of a site.

Maine Audubon facilitates Big Night events by offering Kit Host services. The kits are equipped with essential tools such as species identification cards, headlamps, safety vests, and clipboards. You can conveniently borrow a kit for the season to enhance the Maine Big Night experience.

To access the kits:

In Falmouth, contact or visit the Visitor Center at Gilsland Farm.

In Holden, contact or visit the Fields Pond Audubon Center.

For more information on Maine Big Night and opportunities to get involved, visit

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