The longest running Amphibian Community on the Internet.

Tags Register FAQ Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read Store



Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 4th June 2008   #1
Wes von Papinešu
Our Roving Correspondent
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: [ Members Only ]
Age: 60
Posts: 494
Gallery Images: 0
Comments: 0
Rep: wes_von_papinešu is considered an Authority at Caudata.orgwes_von_papinešu is considered an Authority at Caudata.orgwes_von_papinešu is considered an Authority at Caudata.orgwes_von_papinešu is considered an Authority at Caudata.orgwes_von_papinešu is considered an Authority at Caudata.orgwes_von_papinešu is considered an Authority at Caudata.orgwes_von_papinešu is considered an Authority at Caudata.orgwes_von_papinešu is considered an Authority at
Default ON Press: Slithery salamander comes sliding back into my life

WHIG STANDARD (Ontario) 29 May 08 Slithery salamander comes sliding back into my life (Lubomyr Luciuk)
I was pretty sure I wouldn't like what they were going to do to me.
There were two of them. And they were fast. Within a few hours, they had cleaned me out, moving everything I own elsewhere, away from the place I had called home for nearly 20 years.
I thought vacating my hearth would be traumatic.
Actually, it didn't bother me much at all. And I remember reacting much the same way when I left my parents' home, journeying west to earn my PhD some 30 years ago.
Most folks on the move try to take some of their stuff along. Inevitably, things get left behind. As refugees, my parents couldn't take much out of wartime Ukraine except memories. I got to take everything I could squeeze into my 1978 Buick Skyhawk. The car, metallic blue in colour, was nick-named "the Minnow." It was packed full.
Leaving Kingston did mean having to give up my hobby. Even now, friends remind me of how keen I used to be about amphibians and reptiles. My parents bought me my first newt around 1965. To me, it was a miniature dinosaur - and, like many pre-teen lads, my favourite library books depicted the "fearfully great lizards" of the Mesozoic era.
Over the years, I collected dozens of "herps," including European newts, a six-foot boa constrictor named Nikita, assor-ted tortoises and lizards. My parents encouraged this, setting aside a basement room for my aquariums and terrariums. And my earliest mentor, Father J. C. E. Riotte, a noted entomologist, furthered my interest, offering summer jobs with the Royal Ontario Museum based at the Queen's University biological research station near Chaffeys Lock.
Though I would eventually find myself studying quite different subjects, all of this was good. Summer after summer, I was surrounded by professors and graduate students who taught me well, if more by example than intent. My only regret is that, in those days, the animals I purchased were caught wild. So my hobby, however innocent, did harm. Thankfully, many specimens in the trade are now captive-bred, more information on their proper care is available, and, increasingly, there is a growing public appreciation of such creatures. Conservationists have, for example, designated 2008 as the Year of the Frog, drawing attention to alarmingly rapid declines in some amphibian populations.
Before I left Kingston, I found good homes for my pets, thinking that, having done so, I had closed that chapter in my life. Not quite. Some years before I had tried an experiment. Knowing that my parents' property was once a farmer's woodlot that contained shady nooks where trilliums and other native plants reappeared every spring, I reckoned it was ideal for the reintroduction of a local amphibian, Plethodon cinereus, the red backed salamander. So, one spring in the early 1970s, I collected about a dozen adults and released them in a damp corner, a good habitat.
Alas, that summer was particularly hot. I was sure the colony hadn't made it. I certainly never saw a salamander after that and soon forgot all about my little initiative - until the other day.
When the phone rang and I heard my mom on the other end of the line exclaiming "Come quick!" I rushed out the door. A few years ago, my dad had spotted something lurking. It hopped, slithered or crawled out of reach well before I could get there. Older now, but obviously quicker and stealthier, Dad wasn't going to be foiled again. He had scooped up a salamander.
Unless it comes from a population that existed there before, this creature has been living underneath the basement steps - a cool, predator-free environment - for almost four decades (not an unheard of life span for Plethodontids), or else it is the offspring of those I resettled.
Red backs breed in the fall, not the spring. It was not out looking for a mate. Needing to keep their skins wet, these salamanders move about only when moisture levels are high. Annually, melting yard snow creates temporary little ponds in our Nelson Street basement - annoying for my dad's cat, Tihur, whose litter box has been known to float away - but a delight if you happen to be a foraging salamander. It's also a fact that red backs are quite territorial, protective of their offspring and eat creepy crawlers of the kind an older basement is home sweet home to.
So what to do with our captive? Mom was not particularly keen on returning it whence it came, but I pleaded the prisoner's case before the family jury, insisting that this little being had a right to remain in its home. Those who were themselves once forced from theirs appreciated my oratory. Back downstairs it went.
Even at the risk of being labelled anthropomorphic, I'd claim it looked happy heading into the little crack beneath the stairs where it belongs.
And that's how I discovered that even after you leave a place, some things await upon your return.
- Lubomyr Luciuk is a professor of political geography at The Royal Military College of Canada.

wes_von_papinešu is offline   Reply With Quote

back, life, press, salamander, sliding, slithery

Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Similar Threads

Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
IN Press: Salamander's surprising life comes to an end wes_von_papinešu Press / News Items 0 16th July 2009 16:44
Yellow-back, red back salamander i_love_necturus Photo & Video Gallery 14 26th May 2009 02:56
Tiger Salamander with an injured back. Ferramba Newt and Salamander Help 4 17th May 2008 20:57
GBR Press: Bagged and boxed: it's a frog's life wes_von_papinešu Press / News Items 0 2nd April 2008 23:50
HELP!!! My axie's back leg is twisted Back!!! I need help!! chantel Sick Axolotl? 3 27th September 2005 13:01

All times are GMT. The time now is 05:20.