Before this week I had seen only one species of salamander here on the museum’s 84 acres, a dead marbled salamander found alongside the path in January of 2017, nearly two years ago. Another salamander, described to me by a summer camper a few years beyond that, was probably a red-backed salamander. We now have a third.
Animal Keepers Autumn and Janine, after several previous encounters with the slippery amphibians, were able to capture and photograph another species of salamander near the bear pool in the black bear compound. The yellowish undersides, five toes on hind feet and four on front, and two black lines down each side (dorsolateral stripes) which extend nearly to the tip of the tail clinch it, a southern two-lined salamander (Eurycea cirrigera).
There are three similar looking and related salamanders, the northern two-lined salamander, Blue Ridge two-lined salamander, and Sandhills eurycea. The northern two-lined lives further north in Virginia and beyond, the Blue Ridge lives in the mountains to our west, and the Sandhills lives, you guessed it, in the the Sandhills south of here.
Southern two-lined salamanders breed in winter through spring, depending on local conditions. That’s when they’re most likely to be seen near water, if seen at all. Although they’re listed as “fairly abundant” or “common” depending on the source consulted, they don’t show themselves often.
Southern two-lined salamanders eat small invertebrates but will also eat other salamanders if available.