Herp Update: Current Herp Activity, Fundraiser – February 17, 2023

Herp Update: Current Herp Activity, Fundraiser – February 17, 2023

Current Herp Activity

Since our last update we have received two reports of single Spotted Salamanders moving over the remaining snow. They originate from opposite ends of the state: Brattleboro and Montgomery. Sightings of winter movement of Spotted Salamanders in January and February are unusual, but a quick search of our database shows we have received 21 reports of single Spotteds moving in those two months over the last thirty years.

I walked the Morgan Road crossing on the evening of February 9th and did not see any migrational activity and last night around 8:30 PM I made a quick visit to a Jefferson Salamander crossing in Leicester and thankfully did not see any movement. That said, early this morning between 2 AM and 6 AM in the Lake Champlain Basin, it was raining and temperatures were in the high 40’s °F. Those conditions may have initiated some migrational movement. We will see if we get any reports, but late night and early morning migrations rarely get reported unless someone finds road-killed amphibians the following day.

Sue Wetmore heard a Spring Peeper making its fall call from the woods in Brandon. That is not evidence of migration, but it it is unusual. We have only six other reports of calling peepers in January and February in the last 30 years.

Kyle Jones reported seeing basking Painted Turtles in Fairlee, and Ira Powsner reported them basking in Swanton. Unlike the reports above, Painted Turtles have never previously been reported basking in Vermont in either January or February in the 30 years of our monitoring. For them to bask not only requires open water but a relatively warm and sunny day.

Unlike all the herptiles listed above, this is the time of year that Mudpuppies are most active under the ice. Almost all of our winter reports come from ice fishermen and we received a report and photo of one caught by Nate Fritts in the Connecticut River just west of Norwich, VT, in the backwater of Wilder Dam (see his photo below). It was released unharmed.
Mudpuppy on ice and snowAs you may know, the Connecticut River is not actually shared by Vermont and New Hampshire. It is entirely within New Hampshire. So this is technically a NH record, but Mudpuppies from the Connecticut River have worked their way up some of our Vermont tributaries.

The Mudpuppies in the Connecticut River drainage are genetically not the same as our native Mudpuppies in Lake Champlain and its tributaries. Genetic analysis shows that they were introduced from stock in the Midwest.

We would like to get more Mudpuppy reports from ice fisherman. We have concerns about the mortalities of our native population in Lake Champlain and its tributaries caused by lampricide treatments. One treatment of the Lamoille River back in 2009 killed over 500 Mudpuppies. Remarkably, that population has not been entirely eliminated, probably due the good habitat and what must have been a large and healthy population to begin with. On the other hand, the limited population in Lewis Creek appears to have entirely disappeared as a result of the use of lampricides.

Our Annual Fundraiser Continues

We continue to receive your generous donations through our annual fundraiser, but we still have a long ways to go before we reach our goal. We will run the fundraiser through the end of this month and then take down the GoFundMe site, though we certainly accept donations through other means at any time of the year. Your contributions make up the largest portion of our annual budget. The rest comes from grants and cost-share agreements.  Please consider making a donation if you have not already done so.  For more information visit:


Donations can be made in a variety of ways:

  • Through our GoFundMe site (they take 2.9 percent of the payment plus 30 cents per transaction)
  • By using the PayPal link on our website (they take 2.9 percent of the payment plus 30 cents per transaction)
  • By writing a check made out to James S. Andrews (no overhead is lost but it is not tax deductible). Send the check to:
    The Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas
    642 Smead Road
    Salisbury, VT 05769
  • If you would prefer, or if your fund requires that your donation be made to a 501c3 not-for profit you can write a check made out to Vermont Family Forests (VFF).  VFF is our fiscal sponsor and they are a registered 501(c)3 non-profit (they do take 15% for overhead costs).
    • If you write a check to VFF we prefer that you still address it to:
      The Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas
      642 Smead Road
      Salisbury, VT 05769
    • However, if your fund requires that the check be sent directly to Vermont Family Forests, make sure to make it clear that the donation is for the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas and send the donation to:
      Vermont Family Forests
      David Brynn, Executive Director
      P.O. Box 25
      14 School Street, Suite 202A
      Bristol, VT 05443

Thank you!

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