Saturday, April 03, 2010
Red flags going up!
Actually I mean pink flags. Pink flags are popping up all over the front forest and marsh area of the Donkey Farm, apparently it's not just Donkeys that call the farm their home, but also a rare breed of salamanders, called the Jefferson Salamander. An environmental consultant is working on a Jefferson Salamander Identification program. These salamanders are listed as a species at risk and this work is being done to help identify and protect their habitats. Adults live in moist, loose soil, under logs or in leaf litter. Your best chance of spotting a Jefferson salamander is in early spring when they travel to woodland ponds to breed. They lay their eggs in clumps attached to underwater vegetation. By midsummer, the larvae lose their gills and leave the pond and head into the surrounding forest. Once in the forest, Jefferson salamanders spend much of their time underground in rodent burrows, and under rocks and stumps. They feed primarily on insects and worms.The Jefferson salamander lives in deciduous forests. Its range extends across parts of the northeastern U.S. In Canada, it is found only in southern Ontario, mainly along the Niagara Escarpment.This species requires intact deciduous forest with an undisturbed forest floor. These salamanders also need unpolluted breeding ponds that do not dry up in the summer. Habitat loss and degradation caused by urban development, draining of wetlands and some resource extraction activities are the cause of the decline in salamander numbers in southern Ontario. Today, the Ontario populations are small, isolated pockets, each with a few hundred salamanders. Small populations are at risk of local extinction due to floods, fire or other catastrophes. Road mortality as they travel between breeding, nesting and overwintering sites is also a major concern for Jefferson salamanders.The Jefferson salamander is a threatened species both in Ontario and Canada. Ontario’s Endangered Species Act protects this species. Jefferson salamanders breed in late March or early April. During breeding season, they travel from their overwintering sites to breeding ponds. They generally make this journey on the first warm rainy spring night of the year. Unlike most small animals, Jefferson salamanders can live a very long time; up to 30 years of age! Jeffersons spend the winter in old rodent burrows or cracks in the rocks below the frost line. They need to find a spot deep in the ground so they don’t freeze over the winter.