Herp Update: Bobbie Summers, Road Search, more – October 31, 2021

Herp Update: Bobbie Summers, Road Search, more – October 31, 2021

Wildlife Hero

I am very sad to report that Roberta (Bobbie) Summers passed away last Saturday, October 23rd. Bobbie has been a friend and contributor to the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas since 2005. She has contributed 451 records of 29 species to the Atlas either by herself or with others. Those records came from 20 towns in eight counties. She has volunteered scores of times to help us out in the field and contributed monetary support as well.

For many years Bobbie has been challenged by a variety of physical issues but they did not keep her from helping out with herp field surveys. She loved all animals and contributed time and money to other wildlife and animal welfare organizations as well. She was Sue Morse’s right hand woman in Keeping Track for many years. I have attached a photo of a Wood Turtle from one of her most recent reports (June 2021). We will miss her.

A Recent Night Time Road Search

I ran out to the Morgan Road in Salisbury last night around 9:45 PM and took one quick walk through the crossing area. In my 15 minute traverse through the 0.2 mile crossing I counted 75 Eastern Red-backed Salamanders, 4 Four-toed Salamanders, and 4 Blue-spotted Group Salamanders. All but two were headed uphill. Although I can’t be sure, I am suspicious that the two salamanders that appeared to be headed the wrong way (downhill) had seen or felt me coming and were trying to get away from me. I have seen this happen before.

This is the largest migration of Eastern Red-backed Salamanders that I have seen this late in the year. That said, conditions were almost perfect with the road and surrounding substrate saturated and the temperature at 52 F.

I suspect that uphill migration of Eastern Red-backed Salamanders is a local phenomenon that does not take place where the feeding habitat also provides overwintering opportunities. The salamanders at Morgan Road are coming out of a low-elevation forested swamp that will flood in the spring and would not provide safe overwintering habitat. They are migrating to a rocky slope that will provide easy access to subsurface habitat deep enough to keep them from freezing over the winter, without the risk of flooding.

Amphibians should be migrating again tonight in rainy parts of the state.

Other Reports

Other reports that have come in over the last 10 days included Spotted, Blue-spotted and Eastern Red-backed Salamanders, Eastern Newt, American Toad, Common Gartersnake, Dekay’s Brownsnake, Common Watersnake, Ring-necked Snake, Eastern Milksnake, and Northern Map Turtle.

Jim Andrews

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