Why Salamanders Love Vernal Pools

On a rainy spring night in a New Jersey forest, a Jefferson salamander stirs under the rotting log that hides her. At last, it’s time. She wriggles slowly through the fallen leaves for her half-mile journey to the same pond where she was born. It’s a vernal pool, meaning it fills with water only part of the year, from late fall into summer.

The shiny gray salamander skirts a tiny pond and pops out from the forest into mortal danger—a road. She crawls forward. Halfway across, a car speeds toward her. The wheels just miss her. She keeps going, determined to reach her pond. No other one will do. On this night, other Jefferson salamanders are on the move as well, along with wood frogs, spotted salamanders, spring peepers and American toads. All depend on reaching vernal pools.

Will you help save vernal pools and assure a future for the Jefferson salamander?  This salamander is declining across its range, dwelling only where forests and vernal ponds still exist, from southern New England south and southwest through Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia.

We need your salamander-style determination to pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. With your help, this Act will provide the critical funding to protect and bring back our vulnerable wildlife before they reach the brink of extinction.

TAKE ACTION:  Urge Congress to support the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

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Spring Courtship is in the Air

Returning to our valiant female, she’s reached the pool. Swimming in the water, she and a male find each other by chemical cues. A few days later she lays up to 250 eggs divided into a few clusters and attached to vegetation on the pond surface. A month to six weeks later, the young hatch. After two-to four months, they leave to hide in small mammal burrows and tunnels in the forest. It will take three years before they can make their own breeding trip, and with luck, might live a total of six years.

We Can’t Wait to Save Salamanders

red-spotted newt

A red-spotted newt, a type of salamander whose brightly colored skin toxins act as a warning to predators. Photo by William Borne.

Jefferson salamanders join several other eastern species that depend on vernal pools within forests, including marbled, spotted, and blue-spotted salamanders. The strong fidelity of most salamanders to their home pools and their need for connected forests make them specialists that suffer in a developed world—unless we step up.

With our help, state wildlife agencies can fully carry out needed conservation, from finding out exactly what the salamanders need to applying practical solutions. For example, new roads in a development can be planned to avoid salamander migration pathways. Culverts under existing roads offer a safe crossing. Protecting a wide forest buffer around vernal pools and keeping them free of herbicides and pesticides is important, too.

Please speak out in support of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act to help at risk salamanders thrive and make it back to their ponds every year.

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