After a warm winter and chilly start to spring, I joined my Ontario Nature co-workers at Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Reserve for a good old-fashioned salamander sleuthing event, our first of the season. The Altberg reserve is a tranquil property that has great trails and several vernal pools that are home to a variety of species, including fairy shrimp. Throughout the day we heard lots of woodpeckers and saw evidence of moose on the reserve.
Last year, we laid 30 wooden boards to help us monitor Altberg’s secretive salamanders. Our goal was to count the number of salamanders under each board, identify their species and submit that information to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas (ORAA).
The biggest challenge we had was finding the boards, as they were perfectly camouflaged under a blanket of leaves. We kept our eyes peeled and with the help of some amazing volunteers, we located all 30! We didn’t find salamanders under any of the boards, but we did see a few red-backed salamanders under a nearby log.
Ontario’s reptiles and amphibians are declining at an alarming rate, but what can you do to help? You can submit your salamander observations to the ORAA, a citizen science program where everyone can make a difference. You don’t have to be a professional photographer or scientist to lend a hand.
Now that spring is here, we also invite you to explore our nature reserves. We have lots of great events planned and we’d love to have you join us for them. Who knows what interesting creatures you may find!
This event was possible due to funding provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
Smera Sukumar is Ontario Nature’s conservation science intern