|Teeny weeny baby redback salamander. It's sitting on a maple seed, for some idea of scale.|
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge is a perfect spot for a salamander search. On a sunny day we headed over there to see who we could find.
We discovered that some lovely, large stepping stones have been added to the tadpole pond. I for one was thrilled to see this! This is a small, shallow vernal pool which dries up completely in the summer. It's not suitable for our region's most prominent threatened amphibian species, red-legged frogs, which lay their eggs in deeper water. It's used mainly by Pacific chorus frogs and lots of aquatic insects and crustaceans which can also be found throughout the Oaks Bottom wetlands, none of which are endangered. If you pause to fill a jar with a single cup of water, you might be flabbergasted to discover literally hundreds- even thousands- of tiny lives. In the middle of the big Oaks Bottom wetlands, this tiny vernal pool beckons. But it's also virtually impossible to pause in the middle of this busy park and get anywhere near the water without being yelled at by well meaning passers-by. Some people passionately believe that allowing kids to get close to the water, even with supervision, is recklessly giving kids permission to cause some harm. I strongly believe that if kids can't get close to a pond, they won't ever understand what's worth protecting. The stepping stones provide a way for kids to gaze into the pond and watch the tadpoles without causing any harm. Their installation would seem to send a clear signal that kids are welcome, even encouraged, to explore the pond. Yet when we visited, we found the city still has the pond roped off and hasn't posted any rules to clarify if the stepping stones may be used. So frustrating! Yes, I could try to contact someone in the parks department and ask, but that's beside the point. It should be clear to all visitors whether kids are welcome to explore the pond or not.
We found LOTS of salamanders, most of which were obviously western redback salamanders. Good salamander etiquette requires minimal and very gentle handling, never ever holding them by the tail. Many species will simply sever their tail, which can allow them time to get away from predators while their still twitching tail acts as a decoy. Their tail may regrow in time, but until it does, it leaves the salamander particularly vulnerable. If we find a salamander under something, we always gently remove the salamander, replace the log or rock it was hiding under, and gently place the salamander on the ground directly next to it so the salamander can crawl back under on its own. That eliminates the possibility of carelessly crushing the poor thing. Here's some pictures, because, let's face it, salamanders are cute!