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Sunday, July 14, 2024

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Boom or Bust – Salamanders Coming or Going?

By Rick Racela

COURT HOUSE – Has the Eastern Tiger Salamander been able to flourish at the Atlantic Cape Community College Court House campus here?
It looks like no one will know for sure until June.
Due to a decision by the state Department of Environmental Protection, the beginning of the study, designed to monitor the endangered species, has been delayed. 
Environmental consultant Joel Gove said that the DEP determined that the summer months would be more beneficial for the study of the creature.
“We’re looking at starting June 15 and running to July 15,” he said.
Gove and his team are planning to create a drift fence that will act as a barrier between the forested area and the breeding ponds.
“After they’re trapped, we’ll examine the weight, length, and general health of the creatures,” he said. “We’re essentially looking for a base line to see what the population is now.”
 “Instead of catching them going to the pond, hopefully we’ll get some younger juveniles as they leave that area,” said Terry Sampson, ACCC executive director of administration.
Evidence of two endangered species, the Eastern Tiger Salamander and the Southern Gray Treefrog – and two threatened species, the Redheaded Woodpecker and the Barred Owl – were discovered before construction began at the ACCC’s Court House campus site or on the adjacent property. 
A compromise between the county and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in the form of a comprehensive management plan, was created nearly six years ago to protect the species.
ACCC hired Habitat Management & Design, for $26,000 for the first year of study, to establish if the endangered salamander is still present and evaluate if the college and county’s management practices were effective in sustaining the species’ population, according to Gove.
Gove, who had encountered a total of seven adult salamanders in the year 2000, couldn’t speculate on the status of the salamander population.
Gove said that because no juveniles, larvae or egg masses were found during the original investigation, the remaining adult salamanders could be “remnants” from a neighboring pond that is stocked with large mouth bass.
“If the fish population is thriving, then the salamander population could be suffering,” said Gove.
He added that amphibians populations are also prone to “boom and bust” periods and are very susceptible to weather fluctuations.
“We’ll see when June comes along,” he said.
The salamander, which measures about 10-inches in length and is the most “widely distributed salamander in North America,” spends most of its life underground. It emerges from underground in January to breed in bodies of water.
Gove added that “the bird studies aren’t scheduled to begin for another month.”
Both the Redheaded Woodpecker and the Barred Owl responded to taped calls broadcast from the parking area near the train station. The management plan detailed an installation of nesting boxes on adjacent county-owned land that would serve both avian species.
“The boxes for the Barred Owl should be installed in late fall as nesting can start as early as the beginning of March,” stated the management plan.
The plan specified that 12 nesting boxes should be placed in the pine oak habitat during the winter season, because nesting typically begins in April.
Contact Huggins at: (609) 886-8600 ext. 25 or lhuggins@cmcherald.com
 

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