Wildlife Wednesday 02/28

Happy #WildlifeWednesday! It is the time of year when we observe, appreciate, and celebrate Ohio’s state amphibian (and a TWC mascot), the spotted salamander!

A type of mole salamander, this cute creature with bright yellow spots and a perpetual smile lives most of its life underground.

After a long winter of brumation (similar to hibernation), spotted salamanders emerge from their burrows and venture above-ground for their mass migration. They need specific conditions to undergo this journey. The temperature must be warm (around 50 degrees F or above), the snowpack must be melted, and the weather must be damp throughout the night.

Typically the first steady gentle overnight rain as spring approaches will trigger the nocturnal parade. They travel in numbers of hundreds and even thousands to their breeding grounds, vernal pools in mature forests. 

Vernal pools are ephemeral basins of water, which due to their temporary nature do not provide habitat for fish. This is ideal for amphibians who mate and lay their egg masses in water, as they do not have to worry about fish predation. The salamander mating ritual consists of elaborate circling and spiraling in the water, the males nudging the snouts and cheeks of the females.

To view this remarkable display, watch the weather forecast for the first warm night rain of the year, then head to the site about an hour or two after sunset. Hundreds of the salamanders can be moving in herds underfoot so it is important to watch your step. And while driving be mindful of the charismatic amphibians crossing the road.

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