The Salamander and The Snowbank

by Jennifer Taylor, Animal Care Coordinator & Intern Coordinator

Amphibians are not often seen at Wild Care. This February, we received a call from a woman in Cotuit who found a (Yellow) Spotted Salamander laying on a snowbank in a road. There was construction going on, and it must have been unearthed from its winter sleep.

Its tail was damaged, and it had a large wound on its back and on one of its front elbows.  The prognosis was not good. Amphibians are very different physiologically than other animals.
We always well-research any species we do not commonly see. Coincidently, I had just seen a veterinary webinar offered in my email titled “Amphibians- Don’t let Them Croak”. I went right to it. The website had excellent videos for animal professionals on unusual topics. Another current lecture on treating amphibian patients was also at our fingertips through the 2021 National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association (NWRA) Symposium.
We went right to them and learned a lot. Main points being – use distilled water, only handle with wet nitrile gloves and do not offer heat. Oh, and salamanders’ jaws open from the top not the bottom. All crucial information when you have a hypothermic, wounded, and potentially frostbitten salamander that you have to handle, maintain and medicate.
Dr. Morgan, our consulting veterinarian, checked on the patient several times. She confirmed that the tail-end would just fall off on its own with no amputation. She also provided moral support when we gave an anti-fungal bath to the salamander. Our YSSA #21-75 healed well and hid in its wet sphagnum moss for almost two months. After consulting with Cape Cod Naturalist Peter Trull, and a Barnstable Conservation, a release site was chosen and the rescuer tucked the moss enveloped animal into the wet leafy underbrush near a vernal pool very close to the snowbank where it was found.

Learn more about the salamanders of Massachusetts here

Top photo: Kerry Reid, Tail Photo Jennifer Taylor

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