The warmer weather seen in parts of south western Ontario has meant that a stretch of road in Burlington will be off limits a little earlier than usual this year for that city’s annual salamander breeding migration.

Starting on March 2, King Road from North Service to Mountain Brown roads will be closed to vehicles so that the ‘Jeffies’ or the ‘Jeffs’ as they’re affectionately known, can make the trek to nearby run-off ponds where they like to breed.

Local traffic for all properties on King between North Service Road and the escarpment will, however, be maintained, the city noted in a Feb. 26 news release.

King Road is expected to reopen on April 2.

For the last 11 years, a portion of Burlington King Road near the Waterdown area has been shut down for three to four weeks due to the amphibian breeding ritual.

This annual closure is done in partnership with the City of Burlington and Conservation Halton.

“These efforts have a direct impact on this endangered species’ capacity for survival and long-term recovery. We are proud to partner with the City of Burlington again this year to support the salamanders’ spring journey and protect biodiversity in our watershed,” Lesley Matich, Conservation Halton’s manager of science and monitoring, said in a release.

Ward 1 Coun. Kelvin Galbraith expressed his appreciation to everyone in the community for their cooperation and support of this year’s early closure.

“Thank you to everyone who does their part every year to help protect Jefferson salamander populations in our city. The road closure plays a vital role in protecting their species and allowing them to breed,” he said.

Jefferson dependant unisexual salamander

The Jefferson salamander, which has become Burlington’s unofficial mascot, is a provincially and nationally protected endangered species. It lives in select areas in southern Ontario where there is deciduous forest, mostly along the Niagara Escarpment.

Jeffies spend most of their lives underground, but when the weather warms up and the spring rain begins adults venture out to breed in temporary ponds formed by run-off. They usually do so on wet, rainy nights.

Measuring up to 20 centimetres long with tail that makes up half their length, this species of salamander tends to be drawn to the ponds where they hatched to breed and their determination to reach their birthplace may result in them crossing busy roads.

They procreate by laying eggs in clumps that attach to underwater vegetation. By late summer, the larvae lose their gills and the air-breathing juveniles then leave the pond to head into nearby forests.

The adults, meanwhile, leave the ponds not long after breeding.

Jefferson salamanders, which are grey or brown in colour with lighter under parts and sometimes blue flecks on their sides or limbs, were added to Ontario’s endangered species list in 2011.

Unlike most small animals, they can live for up to 30 years.