During the early Spring, rains and snowmelt create temporary flooded pools on the forest and woodland floors. These are known as vernal or ephemeral pools. As these bodies of water are created new each spring, they lack fish and other predators and are therefore ideal places for salamanders to breed and lay their eggs.[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][text_output]

Unfortunately, landowners may deem such areas as insignificant and fill them in. This can be disastrous to the salamanders as large numbers will congregate to these pools, so a huge portion of the breeding population (and future offspring) can be negatively affected. According to the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, eighty five percent of vernal pool amphibians return each year to breed in the pond where they were born (Colburn, 2004). They will bypass other pools that provide suitable habitat and cross obstacles such as roads and other forms of human disturbance in order to return to the pool of their birth. This fidelity by individual amphibians to a particular pool is an important consideration when determining how to protect a species as a whole.

As such, landowners who have vernal pools on their properties are encouraged to leave them in their natural state for salamanders. If individuals encounter a breeding pool of salamanders they should be sure to admire this from the shoreline only. Entering the pool can disturb the salamanders, and potentially kill them, or destroy their eggs when they are crushed under foot.

Salamanders may sometimes use permanent ponds for breeding (especially in the absence of fish), so make sure not to stock ponds. Let natural populations of animals occur. Stocking can create a surplus of predators for salamanders. Leave the natural assemblage of animals in the wetland.

People can help salamanders before they even reach their breeding pools. Every year significant numbers of salamanders are killed on roads when they are run over. Salamanders are generally on the move when they are migrating to breeding sites or travelling after rain storms. If you encounter a salamander on the road, stop and move it across in the direction it’s headed (this is the only time salamanders should be handled due to their sensitive skins). If possible, wet hands before touching the salamander. To avoid running over salamanders, if possible do not drive during dawn and dusk hours, on wet spring nights, or during or right after rain storms. Taking alternate routes that do not cut through forests or wetlands can also reduce the risk of hitting salamanders. If you must drive, be sure to travel slowly and keep an eye out for salamanders. Be alert to listen for Spring Peeper Frogs and Wood Frogs. The calls of Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs means that their are amphibian breeding pools in the area. In such regions be extra watchful for salamanders.

Lastly, people can help by encouraging children not to capture salamanders that they encounter for pets, and to leave wild animals in the wild!

By helping salamanders, they can help us too! Salamanders are essential to keeping insect and arthropod populations in balance. Salamanders prey heavily on such species. This is a valuable service to humans as salamanders act as a natural form of ”pest control.” This includes consuming ticks and mosquitoes. Such species can not only be bothersome to humans, but their bites can cause serious health issues.

Learn more at: www.savethesalamanders.com

By Matt Ellerbeck[/text_output][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][text_output]Above: An example of a flooded vernal pond that salamanders use from breeding. Photo © Tristan Clark. 

Below:Yellow-Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) headed to a vernal pool. Photo © Tristan Clark.[/text_output]

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