Following is a selected project highlight from the Share with Wildlife mission to assist all New Mexico wildlife in need, no matter what species.
What temperature and precipitation levels allow a narrowly distributed salamander to move on the ground surface vs. stay below ground? Are there conditions or times of year during which forest treatments, including thinning or prescribed burns, can more safely be conducted to minimize impacts to this salamander? What are the impacts of wildfire on the Sacramento Mountain salamander? These are some of the questions that Dr. Nancy Karraker and students in her lab at the University of Rhode Island, including a recent graduate student, Ryan Healey, and a future student, Marissa Ardovino, are trying to answer with collaborator Dr. Rachel Loehman, a fire ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Answers will come from the team’s extensive mark-recapture and occupancy surveys at sites in the Sacramento and White mountains in southeastern New Mexico and associated data on microclimate, forest characteristics, and fire history.
In 2021, a total of 12 plots were established to survey for and individually mark salamanders. Over 600 salamanders were captured and marked in these plots and almost 150 salamanders were detected during surveys in areas with different levels of burn severity. Most salamanders were found either under or within logs or under rocks. These associations with cover objects seemed to differ between mountain ranges, with rocks being the more prevalent cover object type and consequently more popular in the White Mountains and logs being more abundant and more commonly used in the Sacramento Mountains. The longest detected movement of a salamander between plot surveys, or within a week, was 28 meters or 280 times the length of an adult salamander. The 2022 field season was also very successful and included many long days in steep, rugged terrain. We look forward to further results as data analyses get underway and after a third year of surveys are conducted in 2023!