Route in east France closed to allow frogs to mate safely

A rural route in Grand Est will stay closed every night for almost a month so that amphibians can cross and reach nearby ponds where they reproduce

9 March 2021
By Joanna York

A rural route in the Haut-Rhin department, Grand Est, was closed to vehicles at night on March 2 and will stay closed each night until March 29 to allow local frogs and other amphibians to cross safely.

The route is close to multiple ponds which the amphibians use to reproduce and has been closed during the animals’ annual spring mating season for the past few years. 

A Facebook post from local road traffic group Info Traffic Haut-Rhin said the closure would help protect toads, common frogs, agile frogs and newts which would be crossing the route en mass now that warmer spring weather has begun. 

Martine Bolognini, municipal officer for Hirsingue told France 3 Alsace: “There are a lot of natural ponds in the local area where amphibians live and reproduce.

“That’s why we have introduced this measure, to protect these species.”

This year the route closure, enforced by barriers, will be in place from 19:00-7:00. 

Ms Bolognini said it had not been introduced at 18:00 – the same time as the national curfew currently in place – in order to avoid “cornering people who work and come home late”.

“It doesn’t matter if the frogs can only come out a little later in the evening,” she said.

Route closure unpopular among some locals

The affected route connects the rue du Roggenberg in Hirsingue with the rue de Hirsingue in Wittersdorf.

Although there are alternative roads connecting the two, the yearly route closure is not universally popular.

“There are incidents every year,” Ms Bolognini said. “People have broken the barriers and we have to replace them.”

Local authorities say the route is actually a rural path, rather than a road, and should be considered as such. 

But some people see it as a road as it was recently paved and attempts to prevent trucks using it by blocking it from appearing on GPS maps did not succeed.

Ms Bolognini said the closure should be respected in any case.

She said: “This is an ecological act. It’s important because many species are disappearing, and we are currently in a period where access to nature is something that makes us happy.”

The amphibians also play an important role in the local food chain. 

As well as eating a wide range of insects they are a source of food for many local fish and birds. 

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