Release the Dragon!
Release the Dragon!
by Jennifer Taylor, Animal Care Coordinator
Checking the phone messages at Wild Care is a pretty routine job. You get the phone log out, a pen that works, press *99, close your eyes and listen hard, expecting calls from excited people at windy beaches. You concentrate to decipher all the words – are they saying “hawks” or “fox” as the connection fades in and out. I write them down…“Gull/Ptown/broken wing/Commercial St./in traffic. Bat/fireplace/renters coming at 4pm/Eastham. Snake/ bike path /Brewster…
Every now and then you get the message where you go, “What??? Wait a minute! Play that one again.” This was a good one. Huge!/ Komodo Dragon!/never seen such a big one/Wellfleet/ Attic. Okay. I once got a call for Bison crossing Route 28 in South Orleans. And, honestly with the pet trade, who knows what is out there?
Alas, when I spoke to the caller, “huge” meant seven inches. He HAD NEVER seen a salamander that big! It was in his attic because containers from outside had been brought up to the attic the day before. It all made sense. I instructed him to keep it very damp. The animal was brought in the next day. (It was a relief to see a salamander at Wild Care that had not been stepped on, and we were grateful that he called.)
The clinically healthy Spotted Salamander weighed a whopping 22 grams. I called the Cape Cod Natural History Museum for advice. I spoke to a naturalist there who gave me some good pointers about the hibernation status of the animal. Our Executive Director Stephanie, happened to have just signed up for the Harwich Conservation Trust SALAMANDER HIKE with local naturalist, Peter Trull happening that week. She consulted Peter for release guidance for our patient. It was perfect timing! Salamanders emerge and begin breeding AFTER the first heavy rain AFTER the first Full Moon in March. Even though the temperature was cold and the weather unpleasant for us humans, it is party time for salamanders!
Stephanie delivered the ‘Komodo Dragon’ to its home in Harwich Port, where it climbed into wet moss just inches from the pond located on the property where the salamander was found. Stephanie covered the salamander with leaves. There it was. Back in its home as though nothing ever happened.
Amphibian Species in Massachusetts: Great info!
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Wild Care has a state-of-the-art seabird therapy pool, which allows seabirds and waterfowl to exercise on running water. This will help our bird friends recover more quickly so they can get back to their watery habitats!