Posted by: norstarnewengland | April 12, 2009

Salamander Hunting

I can hear Elmer Fudd saying, “Be vewee, vewee, qwiet.  I’m hunting sawamanduhs!   hu-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u!”

Salamander in the Spotlight

Salamander in the Spotlight

This was my third expedition in hunting salamanders at the Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.  Last year’s expedition was a ‘bust,’ while the first trip many years ago was pretty good.  What makes this a challenge is that the Salamanders don’t go on cue or on a predetermined schedule.  It’s not like a certain groundhog that always comes out of the hole on exactly February 2 – right.  These salamanders, hunkered down for the winter, wait for a night that is raining and warmish to come out of the ground and walk downhill to their familiar vernal pool, ‘do their thing’ [perhaps some other blog], then, on another rainy night, walk back uphill and settle back in for the summer [some life].  One of the places where they are sighted is where they cross a nearby road.  So, on a night that seems like the right conditions, the close, Moose Hill staff close off the road with barriers and send an email to the interested people.  It was almost 9:00 on March 29 by the time a troop of about 20 of us left the nature center and walked in the mist.  We carried flashlights and used them to light the pavement before us to find spring peepers hopping across the road, ref-eft newts crossing (they are on a different biological cycle than salamanders – perhaps another blog), and, the star of the night, yellow-spotted salamanders wiggling across.

Yellow Spotted Salamander in the Road

Yellow Spotted Salamander in the Road

It was often difficult to see the peepers and newts, even with the flashlight right on them.  They had the appearance of stones or leaves when they didn’t move.

Can you see the red eft (newt) in the leaves?

Can you see the red eft (newt) in the leaves?

The salamanders are much larger, but it took a little while to find our first one. All-in-all, we found about a dozen.  Not too bad.  Staff recalled that there could be over a hundred that could cross in an expedition.  Toward the end, the barriers were lifted.  One or two cars passed by at a speed that was a bit uncomfortable considering that we were in the road!

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