This past Saturday, April 27th, the Anita Purves Nature Center put on their annual Salamander Meander. Just like the rhyming scheme of the various Owl Prowls, which are also events hosted by the Anita Purves Nature Center dedicated to owl watching, the Salamander Meandor does the same thing…but with salamanders. We were only there for an hour, but this all-ages event created memories for the young and old that will surely last forever.
Olivia Webb, an environmental public program assistant and naturalist at the Anita Purves Nature Center, facilitated the Salamander Meander. Before venturing out into Busey Woods, she sat us all down to give us some general information about salamanders like what their eggs look like, how they burrow under logs, and most importantly, how to catch them. She also explained why the weather was perfect for the occasion as it was a little drizzly outside. “In fact, it may be more likely to see salamanders and other amphibians as they venture out during rain events,” Webb said.
With that, we walked, singled-filed, into the woods with a wagon filled with nets, Petri dishes, and plastic trays to put “specimens” on to look at them. Before we actually got into salamander hunting, all of us took the opportunity to fish things out of a wetland area, which was a perfect spot to find microorganisms. This is where we found a variety of snails, crawfish, bug larvae.
Usually, when you’re trying to find salamanders, you want to look in marshy areas and under logs, which is what we did next. Some of the logs didn’t really give us anything to look at other than only termites, pill bugs, and a whole bunch of earthworms(which are also some pretty cool organisms to look at). Other times, people were really successful in finding salamanders. In total, we interacted with some Small-mouthed salamanders, which are a native species to Illinois It was pretty hilarious because you could tell the salamanders were a little spooked by the children who tried desperately to hold them. It got so severe that Olivia Webb had to take control of the situation and let them go at times. No animals were harmed.
If you’ve always been curious about these wonderful creatures and more, I highly encourage you to visit the Anita Purves Nature Center website and see how you can get involved in events like these.