Salamanders stretching their legs

They like to eat flies and slugs

  • Apr. 29, 2011 12:00 p.m.
.

.

We humans are not the only ones who look eagerly outside once the spring sun starts to shine and warms the earth and the water. Walking along the banks of the river or through the forest paths around Alouette Lake you can see the small amphibians busy making the most of the new season.

One of the most interesting and elusive creatures is the Pacific northwest, or brown salamander. This little chap is about 7.5 centimetres long and can be easily recognized by his rather flat, round head and raised glands  along his sides and the back of his tail.

Usually  dark brown on top and lighter brown underneath, they blend naturally into their surroundings and are hard to see. Only if you catch the quick rustle of leaves and flash in the corner of your eye will you get a sighting, but be careful if you pick one up as they exude a white poisonous substance as a defence mechanism.

The brown salamander likes nothing better than damp marshy places to live, and you will see their baseball-size jelly mass filled with up to 50 eggs  clinging to the base of reeds and twigs in the still waters of a pond or slow moving small stream. Look around places where the skunk cabbage grows and you might be lucky to spot one.

Depending on the warmth of the weather, it will take eight to 14 months for a salamander larvae to become an adult and some hatchlings do not develop into terrestrial (land) salamanders but stay half grown for the rest of their lives, living in the water.

You can easily spot a salamander tadpole with his fat round body and feathery side wings and once it reaches 85 cm long it will turn into an adult .

These amphibians can be mistaken for lizards. But salamanders sometimes develop without legs and you can see them pulling themselves along on their underbelly – something that does not happen to lizards.

If you are lucky enough to have a compost, fallen trees or pond in your garden, you might find that a salamander  will take up residence. They hide in decomposing wood and deep leaf mould and are beneficial because they love a tasty slug and help keep the fly population down.

Look for them when next out walking, or in your garden, they are shy but you might get a sighting.