Monday, July 21, 2008

Critter Friends

With Thanks to Heraldo for the memories.

My Grandson used to love to collect these, they are called Black Spotted Salamanders, and they are black with varying degrees of spots from coal black to Dalmatian colored. You can find them under bark and rocks laying on the ground, in the woods in the winter. They secrete poison, but they are safe to handle if you wash your hands and don't ingest any of the poison. There is the old wives tale of the high school kid that ate one on a dare at a party and died. I doubt that happened, but if you eat one you will die, so don't eat them!

These critters must have moisture to survive, they don't have lungs, and they soak up the oxygen that they need through their moist skin. Remember that as you play with them. Don't left them dry out. A jar with damp moss in it works well. them turn them back loose exactly where you found them.

This is the Giant Pacific salamander. I never ran into many of these as a kid, but remember making one "bark". If you scare them they make a barking sound, like a small puppy.

I don't know how poisonous they are, but they secrete a nasty tasting liquid to ward off predators. They are territorial and should not be moved, because it will interfere with their breeding plans.

This photo is by Kym The Redheaded Blackbelt. I sometimes steal her great photos.

This is a "Water Dog", the newcomers call them a "Rough Skinned Newt". This little critter was one of the most collected pets that we searched for as kids. They are aquatic in the summer time, and that made them fun to catch in the old swimming hole. All the girls are terrified of them which made them twice as interesting.

They don't bark, so I don't know where they got the name "water dog". Maybe someone thought that they did at one time.

They also secrete poison through their skin, so wash after handling one. There is a tale about the cattle drive crew, where the camp cook accidentally scooped one into the coffee pot when he made the coffee in the morning and killed everyone.

When protecting themselves, they throw their heads back over their backs, and stick their tail straight in the air, or curl it over their backs. This lets their bright orange belly show, and that means that they are poison. At least that is the theory. It must work, they are quite abundant on the North-Coast.

Another thing, you can take great pride in the "Water Dog" as a local critter, they only grow in North-Western California and South-Western Oregon.


Carol said...

I have some of the spotted salmanders in our garden. They can get pretty big.

Kym said...

I don't whether Salmon Creek doesn't have many water dogs but I hardly see any but when I was a kid visiting my Grandma on Fish Creek there used to be a ton of them.

EkoVox said...

Yep, I remember water dogs. We also found tons of salamanders.

South Fork Ernie, and especially, Eel River Ernie, do you remember catching "bullheads" and throwing them back disgustedly? Right up there with suckers.

Ernie Branscomb said...

After the first rain in the fall, the river would come up and get slightly muddy. My dad would take a wash tub, and a can of worms, go down to the river behind our house and go fishing. The fishing hole had a long muddy bottom. (Like all the holes before the ‘64 flood)

He would use a Bull Durham tobacco bag full of sand for a sinker, or a spark plug. He would tie the sinkers on a light leader, because they were often sacrificed on the snaggy bottom fishing hole.

He would bait his hook with a worm, cast out into the muddy water, take up the slack and just let the hook lay on the bottom. Within a few minutes he would have a bullhead on. Sometimes he would catch a sucker. Those got killed and left for the Raccoons to eat.

After he had enough for dinner, he would pack the tub back to the house and we would clean them. We would knock them in the head to kill them, then we would nail their heads to a board. With a sharp knife we would slit the skin around behind the head, and one slit down the back and one slit down the belly. With two pairs of pliers we would pull the skin off of the meat, fillet them and put them in a bowl for mom.

My mother would season, bread, and fry them, and we would eat them with cornbread and beans. We often wondered, over “catfish dinner”, what the poor folk were doing.

Olm said...

Water dog is a 'local' name for Rough Skinned Newts.

In other parts of the world, Water Dogs are a different animal.,%20Water%20Dogs.htm

Anonymous said...

That's a funny looking picture of a water dog. I haven't seen one in years but remember them as brown on top. I have a picture somewhere of my girls when they were small holding a waterdog in one hand and a peanut butter sandwich in the other.


Ernie Branscomb said...

Olm, Thanks for the links.

Oregon, our water dogs are brown and orange. I just got that photo off the internet. Who knows where they get their photos.

Eel River Ernie said...

I can still recall catching salamanders in Little East Weaver creek on worms while fishing for trout. They (salamanders) inhabit the same runs and will take a bait just like trout. Getting them off the hook is a little bit more complex.

Water dogs were more slow water (pond) critters but it seems to me that they were pretty much everywhere and could be found migrating in heavy rainstorms. Maybe it was just my imagination...

Eko, yes I remember catching bullheads snd "throwing them back in disgust." In fact, last week on the Klamath I landed a couple of these "freshwater lingcods," as we now call them, I released them gently as I am sure they are now endangered and someone may have been watching me.

I think the "Bullheads" that Ernie is speaking about are really a specie of catfish and can grow to a pretty good size and are edible. My version of bullheads (freshwater lingcods) never get more than 4 or 5 inches in length.

Ernie Branscomb said...

These fish were about a foot long. Some people said that they came out of Clear Lake. I have no idea where they came from. I haven’t seen any since the ‘64 flood. They would live in the mud on the river bottom, or in the deep holes. Both of which disappeared in ‘64.

The loggers had a lot of down time in the winter, and “Cabin Fever” quite often drove them out of the house. An old fellow by the name of Otto Whithey would fish rain or shine, muddy or clear. When the river was too muddy for Salmon or Steelhead, he would fish with worms for Bullhead. One day he came packing a nice big Steelhead into the bar that he had caught when the river was high and muddy. He was fishing with worms and he was using a spark plug for a sinker.

Needless to say he was the talk of the town for quite a while. For a long time after that happened people would always bring it up during “Fish Story Time”.

Oregon, do you remember Otto Whithey?

ben said...

Back in the early 70s we would catch bullheads when the water got muddy in the fall. We also caught a perch or sunfish from time to time. The bulheads were only in deep holes. In the summer you would see large schools of suckers on the bottom. Our fall trick for trout was to catch a sucker on worms, then cut strips of its flesh and bait with that. We would get a fine string of large trout or half-pounders. Someone finally told me it was illegal and I quit using sucker bait.

USelaine said...

I see the Rough Skinned Newts in my mom's pumping spring every year. I didn't realize they had a limited range. When I was a kid, grandpa's springs had a lot of tadpoles, but I haven't seen any up there (Navarro Ridge) in decades.

Anonymous said...

they secrete a nasty tasting liquid to ward off predators

How nasty tasting is it? and how do you know this?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Anon, I know this because I read a lot. It was in the link that I provided.

"Pacific Giant Salamanders face a variety of predators who use the same stream-side habitat:weasels, mink, mergansers, river otters, water shrews, trout, and dolly varden. They use a terrible tasting milky solution that comes out of glands on the top of their tail to help protect them against some of these predators."

EkoVox said...

How about the toads peeing on you? We used to catch toads all of the time. They lived in the rock walls and outcroppings with the lizards.

GB05 said...

Re: "How about the toads peeing on you?"

Toad pee gives you warts. I can vouch for that. I still have one on my left forefinger.

Olm said...

"it seems to me that they were pretty much everywhere and could be found migrating in heavy rainstorms."

Rains stimulate breeding: they're heading off to mate.
"i. Breeding migrations. Timing of breeding migrations varies with latitude and elevation. Late fall migrations are characteristic of mild-winter areas (Pimentel, 1960), spring migrations characterize low altitude sites at higher latitudes (Neish, 1971; Oliver and McCurdy, 1974), and summer migrations may be seen at high elevation sites (Nussbaum et al., 1983). There may also be variation in timing associated with the permanence and depth of bodies of water used for breeding. Pimentel (1952) observed slightly later breeding migrations to temporary ponds relative to nearby permanent ponds, because the former take some time to achieve optimal depth for breeding following the onset of fall rains. Males migrate individually and generally arrive at breeding sites about 1 mo before females, which often migrate in groups (Pimentel, 1960). In general, both sexes participate in breeding migrations."
". Seasonal Migrations. Based on studies of several low elevation permanent and temporary ponds in western Oregon and northwestern California, Pimentel (1960) made the following generalizations regarding seasonal migrations in rough-skinned newts. In most populations, individuals breed every other year and there is no evidence that non-reproductive animals migrate to water; these individuals remain on land for approximately 18 mo between breeding periods. Reproductive adults exhibit four basic types of movements: (1) sporadic movements following emergence from subterranean retreat sites; (2) migration to aquatic breeding sites; (3) wandering movements between aquatic and surrounding terrestrial habitats; and (4) post-reproductive migration to subterranean retreats."

Olm said...

"How about the toads peeing on you? "

It's akin to peeing your pants in fear: they're distressed.
If an anuran releases its water due to distress, it has to replenish its fluids in order to survive. If handling frogs and/or toads causes them to evacuate their fluids, put them in or near a natural water/heavy moisture source.

Olm said...

"Toad pee gives you warts. I can vouch for that. I still have one on my left forefinger."

Coincidental wart. Toads do not cause warts.

Olm said...

Just for the hell of it:


Olm said...

"I can still recall catching salamanders in Little East Weaver creek on worms while fishing for trout. They (salamanders) inhabit the same runs and will take a bait just like trout. Getting them off the hook is a little bit more complex."

Waterdogs aka Mud Puppies can be used for bait for fish.
Waddell's Live Waterdogs
'Our dogs range from 5" to 10" long depending on the time of the year they are trapped and from which region of the United States they came from. Waterdogs are an extremely effective bait in the south for largemouth bass and all types of catfish. In the north, they are used to catch walleye, trout, muskees, pike, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass.'

Olm said...

"Olm, Thanks for the links."

You're welcome. Sorry those first links weren't 'live'; got the tag now.

EkoVox said...

Ah yes, Mud could I be so stupid?

Blatant Advertising

One of my brother's entrepaneural ventures.

Olm said...

eko, have you ever seen a rubber boa constrictor in the Willow Creek area - or anywhere else in Humboldt Co, for that matter?

Ernie Branscomb said...

I was in Fortuna today, just got home.

Ekovox, Anytime that you want to advertise stuff like that you are perfectly welcome. I hope your brother does well!

Olm, thanks for keeping my blog alive while I was gone.