09 April 2009

Lizard Killer

The other day when I moved a large bucket that had been sitting outside all winter, I accidentally woke up a little salamander that had gone into hibernation underneath it. His rude awakening did not make him happy, in spite of the lovely weather. Obviously it was way too early for him.

When I looked for him the next day, I expected him to be gone. But no, he was still there. The poor creature had fallen onto his back and was not able to flip himself over. He laid there helplessly waving his tiny limbs in the air. Judging by his slow movements, he was still not fully awake. I helped the little fellow up.

I looked again the next day, and to my horror I found a totally dehydrated, and very dead, little salamander. I felt awful. His state of slumber had apparently kept him from finding a new dark, cold, and soggy spot to continue his sleep. He had not survived a day of sunshine with temperatures in the seventies.

When I went online to find out more about the habits of salamanders, I thought at first he was a Van Dyke salamander, a VERY RARE species, found only in Western Washington. The species is somewhat at risk because of low numbers due to the small area where it lives. And now there was one less and it was my fault. How was I going to live with myself?

However, it was most likely a Plethodon Vehiculum, or Western Red-backed salamander, a moderately common species that doesn't move around much. It wasn't lack of sleep that kept him from finding a better spot, it was his character. I am still a lizard killer, but not responsible for expediting extinction. Phew.

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