Camp High Rocks Protects Rare Salamander
March 6, 2011 by Don Gentle
North Carolina has the highest salamander diversity in the world, with at least 66 species known for the state. Only one of those 66 species is listed as Rare and Endangered and that is the Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus).
A Green Salamander had been found in the Camp High Rocks namesake rocks a few years ago. On March 4, Alan Cameron and Steve O’Neil, both volunteers with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, came to Camp High Rocks to try to confirm that Green Salamanders were still here.
Due to limited time that day they were unable to find any Greens in that rock cluster; however, they did find one adult Green in a smaller cluster of rocks in the forest just on the other side of the horse pasture, and definitely on Camp property.
Most kinds of salamanders are at least partly associated with water or damp conditions under logs and leaf litter. But the Green Salamander has absolutely nothing to do with water in its entire life, which can last 10-15+ years. They spend most of the winter, spring, and fall in rock crevices, and in the summer months most of them are up in trees. It is easiest to find them when they are in the rocks. The large granitic balds that are so common here in the mountains are shunned by Greens as they are too hot, sunlit and dry. Greens need crevices in rocks that are shaded by overhead foliage like mountain laurel, rhododendron or other dense tree cover. This helps maintain a high humidity and cooler temperatures in the crevices.
So why should we be concerned with preserving such a small and seemingly unimportant creature? These salamanders were living in these forests hundreds of thousands or millions of years before humans ever came on the scene, and that gives them the right to continue to live there without human interference. Also, given the documented decline and rapid extinctions of amphibians worldwide, it is more important that ever to conserve our native amphibians as a part of our state’s natural history. Amphibians are crucial to the natural ecosystem and benefit humans directly (e.g., research in medicine). Further, and probably most importantly, because of their sensitive respiratory systems and complex life cycles, amphibians serve as ‘bioindicators,’ alerting us to negative changes in our environment.