Critter of the Week – Salamander

Meet the Small-mouthed Salamander. We discovered this fellow while digging sweet potatoes, apparently living within the bed. This is the first confirmed salamander on the farm, and is a very exciting discovery, as salamanders are excellent indicators of overall habitat quality. They are very susceptible to pesticides and other chemicals, so this one’s presence right in our growing beds is a good demonstration of our organic status.

According to the indispensable Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri, Small-mouthed Salamanders can live in a wide variety of natural habitats from swamps to woodlands to prairies, often utilizing animal burrows such as mole or crayfish. Salamanders are predators, consuming earthworms, insects, and slugs. Their presence in our growing areas is not just ecologically fun, but of direct benefit for us; one of the principles of organic management is encouragement of natural predators to help keep pest populations in check. Slugs especially can be a real problem, and I’m thrilled to have a natural control present. And, they’re just fascinating to watch (don’t handle them, though, as the oils from human skin can harm them).

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