Too Much of A Good Thing: a Drowned Salamander


We had almost exactly 4 inches of rain from Matthew and related weather cells last week.

I finally got around to emptying the gauge yesterday,  and to my surprise, there at the bottom of the reservoir was this (unfortunately dead) red-backed salamander.

This is a bit of an odd amphibian in that it is not water-adapted at any point in its life cycle, so diving in was an unnatural act.

It took some doing to climb up a few inches to the top and dive into the tank. I’m thinking it was a possible suicide. Or it was pushed in by a competing species.

I exhumed the specimen from the gauge into a pyrex bowl for the post-mortem records, as you see here.

Note the impressively puny legs per body mass, and understand how limited is the ability of these creatures to out-migrate when conditions become critical to their existence. And in so very many places in the southern Appalachians, conditions are critical. Which is why the entire class of Amphibia is in extreme peril of extinction. Soon.

One of our visitors found another less common long-tailed salamander under the bark of a fallen log. If he is able to ID it I’ll ask for a copy of his photo and tell all you salamander fans about it. That would be you, Dennis, and probably only you, but hey.

Red Backed Salamander Directory

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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