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Falmouth Fund at Work: Grant Helps Create Critical Vernal Pools

If events unfold according to plan, this spring the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary will experience a first for New England: the creation of manmade vernal pools to help save a species. Vernal pools are critical to Cape Cod’s environment and wetland creatures. One species that relies on vernal pools is the endangered spadefoot toad, one of the rarest of frog and toad species in Massachusetts.

Today, the spadefoot toad is threatened by habitat destruction from development. “Over the years, their population has dissolved,” said Ian Ives, the local Mass Audubon sanctuary director and conservation biologist. The demise of one species can lead to a dangerous chain of environmental events.

In an effort to preserve the spadefoot toad, Mass Audubon sought funding to draw attention to the 49-acre sanctuary, located off Route 151 in East Falmouth. The Falmouth Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation contributed $1,000 to the effort, which purchased four interpretive panels, an illustrated nature booklet, and a self-guided lichen trail system. “This makes the sanctuary relevant to people,” Mr. Ives said. “It encourages them to use the property. They see the meaning in their lives.”

After the Ashumet vernal pools are dug, spadefoot toads will be trans-located to the pools from Sandy Neck in Barnstable. The toads can then reproduce, helping to protect them from extinction. “This is a true conservation project,” Mr. Ives said. “There’s never been a trans-location project of this species in New England before. We couldn’t be doing it without The Falmouth Fund.”

For more information on the Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary in Falmouth, contact Director Ian Ives at 508-362-7475; or For information on The Falmouth Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation or the fund’s Dec. 15 deadline for grant applications, e-mail or telephone 508-790-3040.

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