Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus)

It has been several months since my last blog. In that time I have been very busy doing outreach education events to promote salamander conservation and stewardship. Along side these efforts, I have been spending a great amount of time out in the field collecting salamander observations and data. Most of my efforts are chronicled in daily ”mini-blog” type posts on my Save The Salamanders Facebook page. However, I thought it might be time to do a more in depth blog.

The Canada Day long weekend had just passed, and I spent the duration of that weekend out in the field (as well as presenting a salamander conservation event for a Day Camp Programme in Peterborough, Ontario and one at the Thousand Islands National Park).

Summer is not considered the best time to observe salamanders, with it being often very hot and dry. Salamanders generally prefer cool and damp areas. Furthermore, unlike the migrations to and from over-wintering sites or breeding pools that can occur in both the Spring and Fall, these amphibians are generally not on the move in any great numbers. That being said, searching the coolest, shadiest parts of forests and wetlands can still produce a salamander encounter!

On July 1st, I spent time along a stretch of forest adjacent to the St. Lawrence River. Several Leadback Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) were observed quite quickly. I also encountered a Blue-Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale) and a Four-toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum). The Blue-Spotted Salamander is in decline over much of its range. The General Status of Wildlife in Canada Working Group considers it a Provincially Sensitive Species, while COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) considers the Four-toed Salamander to be rare (or rarely seen).

Four-toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum)
Blue-Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale)

The following day I headed to one of the Thousand Islands where I saw several Yellow-Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum). This includes one tadpole or larval form, complete with feathery external gills. Another Four-toed Salamander was seen, as well as several Eastern Red-backed Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus).

Yellow-Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)
Four-toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum)

Later in the day I headed to a spot where I was hoping to see a semi-aquatic salamander, the Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens​). Despite my efforts, and many pond-dips, I didn’t see any newts at the wetland. I did, however, end up with several leeches on me, mosquitoe bites, and got grazed by the Stinging Nettle plant. I ended up hiking out a different way than I had ventured in, and ended up seeing a juvenile newt (known as a Red Eft) and a Leadback Salamander on the way out!

The next day I headed to a spot an hour and a half north. Here I encountered several more Red-back Salamanders, another Blue-Spotted Salamander, and a much larger larval Yellow-Spotted Salamander then the previous one I encountered. It looked like a small Axolotl!

Red Eft (Notophthalmus viridescens)
Larval or tadpole phase of the Yellow-Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

or my last outing of the long weekend, I headed even further north, to a site close to Whitney, Ontario. Here I found a dozen or so Northern Two-lined Salamanders (Eurycea bislineata). Ontario Nature states that Information about the abundance and distribution of northern two-lined salamanders in Ontario is generally lacking. Therefore, finding records of this species is extremely important. The relative northern territory that I was observing in further adds to the importance of these records, as the Ontario Reptile And Amphibian Atlas project has emphasized the lack of information and records from the northern regions of Ontario.

Northern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea bislineata)
Canada Day Weekend Salamander Encounters
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