Spotting the Spotted…Salamander

By Anna Starkey

For a brief moment each year, a creature of the mud slowly emerges, ready to partake in its annual journey.  This migration is not for food, nor is it for a warm winter home.  Instead, the small, slimy creature chases streams, searching for an ideal body of water to lay its young.  This creature is the spotted salamander, and it has eluded Bellbrook High School’s Environmental classes for years.  However, last night, March 9, the tables turned.

BHS’s AP Environmental class spends the majority of the year discussing ecology, wildlife, and current issues within the world’s ecosystems.  While the class participates in multiple activities and labs, the favorite among students is known as the annual “salamander monitoring.”  As a requirement for the class, students meet a few nights after school at the local Sugarcreek Reserve to assist the EPA and Sugarcreek Park District in the monitoring of the area’s spotted salamander population.  In the past, students have discovered at most 10 salamanders during their hunt.  Due to perfect conditions this year, over 100 hundred salamanders were spotted migrating into the park’s vernal pools.  The amount of moving salamanders was so immense that members of the EPA had to ask students to leave due to the danger of accidentally stepping on one of the organisms.

So, what makes this year the best?  A variety of factors contribute to whether or not salamander monitoring will be a success.  First, the weather conditions must be ideal.  Salamanders prefer the first warm rain of the season to come out from hiding.  Second, as a realtor would say: location, location, location.  Salamanders prefer to mate and  lay their eggs in vernal pools, seasonal bodies of water, in order to avoid predators.  To observe the salamanders’ migration, one must find a vernal pool, ideally near a creek or stream.  Finally, timing is crucial.  The salamander’s journey occurs for only a brief period over the course of just a few nights.  If one is to witness the migration in its entirety, it is best to begin searching directly after the first warm rain.  Once the movement begins, salamanders wait for no one.

Thanks to ideal conditions, BHS’s 2015-2016 APES class was able to have the experience of a lifetime and witness one of nature’s many miracles: the migration of the spotted salamander.  Now, to wait until the eggs hatch…





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