Yesterday after dinner a coworker and I flipped over a log outside the dormitories and found this.
It’s a long-tailed salamander, which is apparently fairly common here but was new to me (I think they’re significantly less common farther north in Ohio, where I’m originally from). What a gorgeous creature! After we caught it, coworker and I sprinted back to the office, where I frantically pawed around in her cubby for a container to keep it in while we identified it. Finally, through the combined application of a Peterson guide and a booklet on the amphibians of Ohio, we figured out what it was. It stayed in its container, with plenty of water and mud and moss to keep it moist, for about two hours, and then we released it back by the same log where we found it.
Apparently these are closely related to two-lined salamanders, and can be told apart from other similar-looking species by the fact that their spots coalesce into little vertical marks along the sides of the tail, which is over half as long as the body.
I love salamanders. Love them. They are seriously my favorite animals. Now I’m going to want to flip over that log every time I walk past it, just in case.