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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Winter Salamanders

Winter salamander habitat

Spring may officially begin in a few days, but in Vermont, we know all too well that winter lingers well past its welcome. Despite the cold, some unexpected creatures have been going about their active lives all winter long: the stream salamanders! In Vermont, those include the Northern Two-lined, Northern Dusky, and Spring Salamanders.

Deep underground, where temperatures never dip below freezing, liquid-water can bubble up to the surface through springs even in the depths of winter. In these places, even under the snow, there can be wet soil and flowing water. Here, there is no reason to go dormant for the winter… if you look in the right place, you can find active salamanders 12 months of the year!

On a February hike in Essex, VT I kept my eye out for places to search for salamanders. The air was a comfortable 43 degrees, but a 6” blanket of snow covered the ground. I found one gap in the snow cover where a seep had melted away the surrounding snow. And there, in the middle of the seep, was a single flat rock that looked perfect for salamanders. One flip, and sure enough, I found a half-dozen Northern Dusky Salamanders, as content as could be!

If you go searching for salamanders in winter, be sure to observe them in their natural environment. Don’t pick them up, exposing them to the frigid air. In the next few weeks, as spring triumphs over winter, salamanders will be undertaking a great migration, and we’ll be tracking their activity closely through the Amphibian Monitoring Program. Stay tuned for more amphibian updates in the months ahead! 

I didn't notice the larvae in the lower-right until looking
at the picture blown up on the computer!

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