Salamander Watch

Project Overview

Salamander Watch is a collaboration between Hampshire College and The Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst, MA. This project involves both the “Big Night” (counting of spotted salamanders during the early spring mating migration) and the Egg Mass Count (which happens 3-4 weeks after the Big Night, and is used to get a better estimate of the breeding success and overall health of the population).

Spotted Salamander Basics

Adult spotted salamanders are 15-25 cm in total length, and females tend to be larger than males. Compared to other salamanders, the body is stout with a broadly rounded snout. The sides of the head are often swollen at the back of the jaw. The legs are large and strong with four to five toes. (Petranka, 1998) When they leave their ponds, spotted salamanders are black, dark brown, or dark grey on their backs...

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Importance of Salamanders

Studying spotted salamanders provides us with a better understanding of their ecological niche, how they interact with their surrounding ecosystem (the system of interactions between plants, animals and the physical environment), and and how changes in habitat impacts their population. Salamanders are abundant in large areas of the US and contribute to their surrounding ecosystem in various ways including: providing food source for other animals, regulating the population of their preys, and facilitating soil dynamics though their terrestrial habit (Davic, & Welsh, 2004). Salamanders, like all amphibians, spend part of their lives on land and part in the water. Studying salamanders and understanding the factors, both on land and in the water, that impact their life cycle and distribution could lead to better understanding of changes in the ecosystem at large. Of importance to PVCS Salamander watch project, which is focused on Spotted Salamander, are also local efforts to reduce impacts to spotted salamanders by humans, for example, by constructing and maintaining tunnels under the roads so that spotted salamander can cross the road and reach vernal pools with less chance of being run over by vehicles. Henry Street Salamander Tunnel is one local example of such efforts (http://hitchcockcenter.org/index.php/about-us/henry-street-salamander-tunnels/).

Environmental Issues Affecting Salamanders

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