I am very excited to have something new to show you here.
A Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum).
My first cousin, Emily Haynes, lives near a tiny little pond (called a “vernal pool”) where Spotted Salamanders travel to, in mass gatherings once a year to mate, usually in late February/early March. I’ve not been physically able to go and witness/photograph one of these gatherings. So my cousin was kind enough to photograph one for me and let me share it with you here. You can see it here in her husband, Andy’s hands. They are quite large, growing to approximately 8 inches in length. They took their kids, Cheston and Caleb, to watch the salamanders on their way to their gathering this year.
Some interesting facts about Spotted Salamanders:
They live most of their lives 3 meters underground and come up to vernal pools this time of year to breed and lay their eggs. The eggs take 4-6 weeks to hatch. It isn’t known what their exact lifespan is in the wild, but they’ve been known to live over 20 years in captivity!
(I don’t recommend someone try to keep one as a pet, as it’s not fair to the salamander, possibly illegal, and it is difficult to give them the conditions they need to be healthy.)
A certain percentage of them are lost each year during these mass gatherings as they cross roads at night time and are hit by cars. Certain animals (skunks in particular) are said to love to eat them, and will often clear the road of any signs of dead salamanders before morning. Interestingly enough though, they don’t seem to be interested in eating them while they are alive – only when they are roadkill. I don’t know why that is, but I assume there is a reason.
So if you are driving around at night in WV, keep your eyes out for Spotted Salamanders trying to cross the road!