Newt Road Closure


The Newt that Closes South Park Drive
November 1–April 1 Every Year

South Park Drive, Tilden Regional Park

At the start of each rainy season, Tilden Regional Park closes South Park Drive to automobiles so that Taricha tarosa, the California newt, can safely cross the road. Why do newts cross the road?

Newts are complex creatures: they produce sounds (clicks, squeaks, and whistles), regenerate missing body parts, and have an uncanny sense of direction. These private creatures spend the greatest part of their lives under logs and in animal burrows during dry months. When seasonal rains signal the start of mating season, however, they forsake their private ways and creep along, sometimes as far as two miles, to the aquatic mating pools where they were born. Although newts have been known to live more than 20 years, very few of the many eggs laid by a female during her lifetime hatch and reach maturity.

The California newt secretes a powerful neurotoxin that is one of the most toxic known to man. This poison protects them from virtually all predators, but not from the automobile. Though newts are more inclined to travel at night than during the day, walkers do occasionally see newts lumbering across the road in Tilden toward the streams and golf course run-off ponds of their origin. If you pick one up, wash your hands and, no matter how hungry you may be, don’t eat it.

If you would like to see newts up close and personal, you can also go to the Japanese Pool in the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. It’s a newt rainy season hang out.

Contributed by Robert Kehlmann, 2012

  • California newt, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley.

  • S. Park Drive photo collage (2011), Peter Mollica.

  • Courting trio, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley.

  • Newts laying eggs under water, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley.

Photo credit abbreviations:
BAHA: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn.
BHS: Berkeley Historical Society