FWC monitors Northwest Florida forests for reticulated flatwoods salamanders

April 2, 2010

Bethany Harvey, field biologist with FWC monitors salamander trap in Point Washington State Forest. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Endangered species monitoring an ongoing process

As an ongoing study started two years ago, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), has been monitoring for the endangered reticulated flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma bishopi) in the Point Washington State Forest, Pine Log State Forest, and the Carter Tract in the Econfina Wildlife Management area.

The reticulated flatwoods salamander is a split from the frosted flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum), which is found east of the Apalachicola river. Both species can only be found in the southeastern coastal plains.

“Its presence is an indicator of a healthy forest,” said Bethany Harvey, field biologist for FWC.

This is the second year Harvey has been involved in the study, and has not yet spotted one in Point Washington. The last sighting of a flatwoods salamander on Point Washington was in 1998, by Hildreth Cooper of USFWS. However, there have been sightings at Pine Log in 2004.

Flatwoods salamander. Photo courtesy R.D. Bartlett, USFWS

The flatwoods salamander was listed as federally threatened by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999, and listed as endangered in 2009.

Searching for the reticulated flatwoods salamander is a tricky process, as the salamander is nocturnal and burrowing amphibian. FWC uses several methods including a silt fence with traps located at the ends of the fencing. Rain water drives the salamander into the traps. Another method is a modified cricket trap with a floatation device to keep the trap above water.

The salamander breeds in shallow ephemeral ponds, generally in a location with native grasses to feed on. Adult salamanders spend most of the year underground in burrows, except in September through December, when adults migrate from surrounding upland habitats to their natal wetlands during rainfall events associated with passing cold fronts.

FWC monitors the salamanders November – May. Click here for location of ponds: map

Interested in volunteering for the project? Go to http://myfwc.com/GETINVOLVED/GetInvolved_Volunteer.htm