Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Great Salamander Stampede of 2014

Last night I joined a meeting with other animal enthusiasts, DNR personnel, and herpetologists to make a plan  to protect some local, endangered salamanders. It seems that in the Wisconsin autumn,  Eastern Tiger Salamanders trundle out of the bogs and fens, climb up to the higher grounds of the surrounding hills , tunnel down into the soil and wait out Old Man Winter. But in spring... well in spring a young salamander's thoughts turn to love, and they stampede down the hills in droves, back to the swamp to well...er...you know...♫ Birds do it... bees do it...even educated fleas do it.♫   It's the circle of life....except for one small problem. Seems we pesky humans laid a highway between point A (the hill) and point B (the wetland) hence creating an epic, non-video, game of Frogger which, ironically, salamanders are really bad at and hardly ever win.

So for a couple of weeks in March/April, depending on when they decide to raise their sleepy heads, people will patrol a particularly strategic stretch of road from dusk on, gathering up the wayward amphibians and helping them get safely across the highway to their yearly Salamander Soiree. Yup! These are the types of things I get myself into for fun.

It's going to be wicked cool though! They gave me a stylin', florescent safety vest, a clipboard and some
forms to fill out. Get this! The forms are waterproof! It's like they already know I'll more than likely be taking at least one, if not several, unexpected dunkings in the drink. I have my own head lamp (thank you very much), but I do need to purchase my own spatula from the Dollar Store. Why a spatula? I'm glad you asked.

It seems that in addition to relocating the little guys, they need to be counted, measured (they can grow up to 14 inches!!!) and sexed. Yup, I said it. Sexed. It's easier that I thought it would be and now I have a new title to add to my resume 'Salamander Gender Identification Specialist'. Interesting... but that's not where the spatula comes in.

At the end of the meeting, in a solemn tone of voice, the speaker told us that we would encounter salamanders that would be 'life challenged' and, despite out best efforts, had met their fate under the tire of a Buick. Poor car-dodging skills? Suicide due to being spurned by a love interest? We will never know, but they need to be counted as DOR (Dead On Road) and removed. If you're still waiting on news of what the spatula is for, this is it. And you thought they were only for scrambled eggs and pancakes. TIP: If you happen by a yard sale at my house in June and see a spatula, I wouldn't buy it.

There was also a grim discussion about 'partially life challenged' animals. It is best to euthanize them rather than let them suffer a slow death if it is clear they will not recover. Salamanders can regenerate a lot of things; limbs, tails, eyes and parts of damaged organs, but it can't sew it self back up if its insides are on the outside. That seems to be 'the line'.  There was a lot of discussion regarding the best way to accomplish this to avoid the recommended method of (gulp) quickly and forcefully dispatching them with the bottom of your boot. The group mused that there must be some more appetizing way to git 'er done without having to pick body parts out of your hiking boot treads at the end of the night.  A wee pillow over it's little face? A carefully concocted cocktail of drugs injected into it's tiny bicep? One girl said she was just going to throw them under a passing car...but she was joking and the comic relief eased the realization the 'giving them the boot' was the kindest way to go.

So there you have it. If you need me in the upcoming weeks, I'll be out on the highway with my vest, headlamp and a fistful of cold, slimy salamanders. Why did the salamander cross the road? Because I carried him there!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought it would be challenging for you to get Awesomer - but I was wrong.... it only took a salamander. ---- Patti

Mum said...

Salamanders, OMG, I can see it now...the next time I visit there will be a little cage with a food dish and a little pond of water and a spotted salamander sitting there with a smile on his face!!

Michelle said...

I agree with Patti; you're the AWESOMEST!