Do you ever wonder about what lies lurking beneath the stairs? Outdoor open-riser stairs that lead below ground level easily spark the imagination with images of creepy creatures that lie in wait beneath the dead leaves. I’ve often found toads and frogs in such a spot, but yesterday’s discovery was the most remarkable yet.
A beautiful yellow-spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) scrambled out of the leaves to enjoy the milder December weather. It was more marvelous than creepy, a veritable wonder to behold. Although they are not uncommon in Nova Scotia, I’ve only seen a yellow-spotted salamander once before near the compost pile. Red-backed salamanders are a much more frequent find in my yard.
At least half a foot in length, this salamander possesses the amazing ability to drop its tail in order to distract predators. Even more wonderful is its ability to regenerate its tail, limbs and even parts of organs if necessary. If it feels threatened, it can also release a whitish poison from glands around its back neck. This one simply held still until the photo shoot was over. Then it scrambled back into the leaf litter.
If it survives the winter, in early spring, this salamander will make its way at that time to the nearest pond to reproduce. In the meantime, it’s welcome to make its home beneath the stairs.
For more information on red-backed salamanders, see: