Residents’ Help Is Needed in Solving a Mystery: Are There Vernal Pools in Cornwall?

The Cornwall Conservation Commission is asking town residents for their help in identifying any vernal pools that may exist on their property.  Vernal pools are small, temporary wetlands, seasonal in nature, that are filled with water from winter and spring snowmelt or rain.  They are typically 1 to 4 feet deep, lack vegetation and are surrounded by a forest canopy.

Despite their small size and temporary nature, these pools are highly productive ecosystems.  They are important egg-laying habitat for amphibians during the spring breeding season.  The salamanders and frogs that breed there are, in turn, a rich source of food for various species of birds, mammals and reptiles.  Vernal pools are usually dry by early fall eliminating the possibility of fish and keeping the numbers of other predators such as newts at lower levels.  But, pools that dry by June don’t last long enough to produce amphibians.

Curiously, there is no documentation of existing pools in Cornwall.  This information is needed for the Inventory of Natural Resources that the town has undertaken. The Conservation Commission is asking for help.  As the weather warms, the call of spring peepers and wood frogs will soon be heard.  If you follow these calls, they may lead you to a vernal pool where salamanders and frogs are breeding.  Amphibians seen moving overland in the spring also may indicate the presence of a vernal pool nearby.  However, they may also be heading to or calling from a permanent pond or beaver dam.

If you think you have located a vernal pool, please note some basic information such as the estimated width of the pool at the widest point, length at the longest point and depth at the deepest point.  (Pools that last long enough for amphibians to breed are usually at least 400 square feet in area, or the size of a cellar hole).  A picture of the pool would also be useful.  You can also look for visible egg-masses (

You can identify the pool’s location by its coordinates using Google Maps (,-72.451472,8.  To do this, go to this site and enter your address, search out the approximate location of the pool, and right-click on the spot.  Then, select “what’s here?” and the coordinates will appear in the search box at the top of the page.

Have fun and email us the information you have been able to collect.  If you have questions or would like one of us to accompany you on a discovery walk, let us know.  Contact Mary Dodge at 462-2899 or Rene Langis at 462-3934