Monday, January 5, 2015

Salamander Breeding Season Begins - 2015

Jefferson Salamanders arrived in the pond on the night of January 3 to begin their annual courtship and egg laying activities.  Jeffersons are always the first species to arrive each year.  Depending on weather conditions, they may be as much as six weeks ahead of the Streamside salamanders that follow.  Spotted salamanders, the last of the three species likely to visit the pond, won’t be seen until March or April.

Blue Jay Barrens is still recovering from a minor summer drought, so availability of water may be a possible hindrance to breeding success this year.  This is how things looked on January 2. Weather reports called for heavy rain and temperatures in the 50’s for the next day and night.  I was sure these conditions would get the salamanders moving and was hopeful that we would get enough rainfall to fill the pond.

The temperatures on January 3 did indeed exceed 60 degrees and intermittent rain fell through the day.  The rainfall amount, however, turned out to be much less than anticipated, resulting in a negligible increase in water depth.  This is a record low water level for the beginning of salamander breeding.  If things don’t improve, eggs and adults both may be threatened by a shrinking water supply.  To add to the threat, several days of below freezing temperatures are predicted for the next week and lows are expected to drop to near zero.  A large volume of this shallow pool may freeze before temperatures moderate once again.

We only got 0.8 inches of rainfall and 0.6 inches of that fell during the day.  By sundown, the rain had stopped and the prospects of it starting again were slight.  I was doubtful that any salamanders would emerge.  Sometime during the night, the remaining 0.2 inches of rain fell.  I really didn’t expect to find anything the next morning, but as I approached the pond the dark shapes of salamanders were easy to see against the light colored soil on the pond bottom. 

I counted 16 salamanders moving around in the deepest area of the pond.  At least 12 individuals are visible in this photo.

During the time I watched, several pairs interacted in what appeared to be courtship activities.

I netted a couple of salamanders just to be sure of the identification.  Both were quite robust and appeared to be in good health.

This male seemed almost frantic to get back to the water. 

It climbed from the net and ran for the pond.

No time was wasted rejoining the rest of the group.  I wish them success in their breeding attempts during this atypical year.


  1. I can't believe you have no snow and salamanders mating, while we have -15C and a foot of the white stuff! We're maybe ten hours north, but it obviously makes a big difference!

  2. Hi, Furry Gnome. Some years we have snow cover through most of the winter and some years the snow melts away almost as fast as it appears. We have a chance of getting a couple of inches of snow tonight. That would help keep a few low growing plants from developing freeze damage from the -17C temperatures expected mid week.