Friday, June 5, 2015

Salamander Larva Rescue

Rainfall patterns have been decidedly odd so far this year.  January and February both had below average precipitation.  March had 6.6 inches of rain, but six inches of that fell in the first two weeks of the month.  By the end of March, it was beginning to look like we were definitely experiencing a drought.  April totaled 7.4 inches of rain, but over six inches of that fell in the first two weeks.  Over the next few weeks, things slipped back into drought conditions.  May totaled only 1.5 inches of rain.  Combine that with a week of temperatures topping out in the 90’s and the drought soon became serious.  The seasonal spring that feeds the toad pool stopped flowing in mid-May.  By Memorial Day it was obvious that the pool would only survive for a few more days.

I went out with net and tub to begin removing tadpoles from the pool for relocation to the pond.  The pool began the season with a healthy population of Jefferson Salamander and Wood Frog tadpoles.   The surviving salamanders were now hiding in deep hoof prints left by the deer.  I soon became adept at using a stick to scare tadpoles from the hoof prints and into a waiting net.  After a while the water would become muddy enough to hide the tadpoles, so I would have to wait for things to settle down before continuing.  I scooped tadpoles twice a day for three days.  By day four there was no water left, but I think I had removed most of the tadpoles by then.

The pool water would have lasted longer if the deer didn’t have such a fascination for that big puddle.  Sometimes in the evenings as many as a dozen deer will gather at the pool.  Acting just like a bunch of children, the deer run back-and-forth through the pool.  Sometimes they just stand on the edge and make a series of jumps in and out of the water.  Some tadpoles probably get trampled and others may suffer from the muddy water left by the deer.  The most damaging thing the deer accomplish is to push soil from the banks into the center of the pool.  In this photo, the pool has only half of its constructed depth because of the deer activity.  It would have helped considerably to have that extra depth filled with water instead of soil.

This was the first batch of refugees to move into the pond.  Some of these are already losing their gills and preparing for a life out of the water.  The final rescue count was about 60 salamanders and an equal number of Wood Frogs.

The pond should last plenty long enough for the salamanders to complete their development.

While I had them, I put a few tadpoles into an aquarium for observation.  All looked healthy.

The Wood Frog tadpoles also looked to be in good shape.

To compensate for their ordeal of spending a day in the aquarium, I filled the salamander’s with earthworms and fed the Wood Frogs some algae wafers.  I thought full bellies might keep the salamanders from dining on their tankmates.

I was wrong.  Despite a healthy meal of worms, this guy still had room for a Wood Frog tadpole.  It only took him a couple more gulps to suck that tail inside its mouth.  For several weeks I had been noticing a decline in the frog tadpole population.  I guess this explains both the salamander’s rapid growth rates and the steady loss of frog tadpoles.

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