Though the Appalachian Mountains are home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna, there is a very special creature living almost invisibly within the forest ecosystem. Salamanders are actually the most prolific animal population in the region. On Saturday, May 7, 2016, a celebration of Southern Appalachian salamanders took place at Grandfather Mountain, Linville, North Carolina. Salamander Saturday is an initiative created by The Foundation for the Conservation of Salamanders (FCSal) to increase awareness of salamanders, their habitats, and their role in the ecosystem. Yet any organization with a passion for salamanders can host Salamander Saturday.
Salamanders have been around since ancient times and play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of a natural environment. Scientists often use their presence to gauge the health of an ecosystem. Toxins and pollutants pass easily through salamander skin, and so an abundance of these amphibians means the location is contaminant-free. Since salamanders can also regenerate their limbs, these incredible creatures serve as models for medicinal research. The Weller’s and pygmy salamanders dwelling in the cool, high-elevation forest environment Linville, NC area are just a few examples of the 500 different species that can be found worldwide.
Events for Salamander Saturday began as early as 9:00 am. North Carolina Herpetological Society Meetings were an all-day event. Anyone could attend and later register for the society. From 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, the Salamander Saturday Tables were up and running. The Nature Museum set up four tables, one for children, and another to display a Hellbender Salamander—one of the native species to Grandfather Mountain. At 11:30 am, the Junior Ranger Salamander Program met at the Butterfly Garden. The Junior Ranger program is for kids 5-12 years of age with an interest in learning about these remarkable vertebrates. At 3:00 pm, the Salamander Walk commenced. People were invited to enter the Woods Walk trail in search of salamanders. Throughout the day, there was also a coloring page table for kids. Students of Appalachian State University also participated by revealing their current research.
In case you missed Grandfather Mountain’s Salamander Saturday, there are other events that might be unfolding near you!