DEAR JOAN: Just to set the scene, I live in a condominium complex. My building is about 25 feet away from a fenced-off, concrete drainage canal. In my 23 years of living here, I’ve seen a plethora of creatures.
With that being said, at around 7 p.m. recently, I went outside to throw the garbage out. Right before I stepped off of the last stair onto the sidewalk, I noticed what I thought was a worm a few inches in front of the last stair.
I definitely avoided stepping on it and proceeded to dispose of the trash. On the way back, I grabbed a small wood chip from the landscape to move it out of the way so it wouldn’t get stepped on by someone else — I’m a big-time lover of all living creatures.
As I was moving it, I noticed that it wasn’t wriggling or squirming. Although it was dark, I could see that one end was wider than the other. It was at that moment that I noticed that there were four tiny legs. Excited, I knew right away that it was a newt.
I attempted to move it some more, but it didn’t respond. At this moment, I started to get upset and concocted a plan to see if it was alive. I went upstairs and grabbed some paper towels, a paper plate, a plastic spoon and a flashlight. After carefully getting it onto the plate, I was able to get a better look at it. It was a California slender salamander, and it didn’t look alive.
I then found a puddle — it had been raining earlier — and began to gently put some water on it. I thought that was a good idea as I was pretty sure that amphibians can get dried out. Unfortunately, there was still no response. I placed it on the lawn in hopes of something good happening.
I came back downstairs about an hour later to find that it wasn’t where I had left it. After searching, I found it a few inches away under a leaf with just its head sticking out.
(After) searching online, I surmised that it was playing dead or was potentially too cold.
About two hours later, I figured that I’d go check on it one last time. After searching for several minutes, I couldn’t find it. I’m assuming that it’s alive and hopefully doing well. What can you tell me about this incident?
Chad Stein, Fremont
DEAR CHAD: I can tell you that you care a lot about creatures of all sizes, shapes and types. It was good of you to try to help the salamander.
I’m not sure what was going on with this one. The California slender salamander doesn’t play dead when faced with danger, but it does go into a sort of hibernation (it’s called aestivation) from May through October in order to avoid the hotter, dryer months. They start mating in December and laying eggs.
The one you found could have been doing the salamander version of Netflix and chill, so I’m hoping, as you are, that he or she found a mate and took off with that purpose in mind.
Source: East Bay Was the Fremont California slender salamander playing possum?