Searching for Salamanders


W14Sep2017

Friends of Roan Mountain is a local organization focused on raising awareness of the mountain, organizing four rallies a year. This past weekend was the fall naturalists’ rally, and over a dozen of us went on a salamander hike. We explored a forest that had a small stream running through it, along with adjacent dry forest. In just a couple hours, turning over logs and rocks, we found over 100 salamanders of many different species.

This gray-cheeked salamander is one of the lungless salamanders, a family including more than half of all salamander species. Since they have no lungs they breathe largely through their skin, and through specialized tissues in their throat and mouth. The greatest diversity of salamanders on earth is here in the southern Appalachian Mountains, known as the salamander capital of the world. They are one of the many reasons I moved here.

As we chatted after the hike, we decided there should be clubs to go out and look for salamanders, in response to the popularity of birding groups. But perhaps salamander searches haven’t gained more popularity since they are most active on rainy nights. There aren’t too many people who would crawl around in dark wet forests searching for them. But I’m one of the few who finds this fun so if you ever start a salamander club, count me in!