Toads & Salamanders

By Mike Johnson

Salamanders are smiley guys. Fifty years ago I’d grab a buddy & we’d hunt for toads & salamanders. The best hunting spots were window wells – those metal-lined, shallow pits surrounding basement windows on homes.

One trip through the neighborhood & we’d have a dozen squirming creatures. People were more tolerant of kids crawling around homes back then.

The toads tried to leap, then peed in our hand. That earned an immediately release. The salamanders just smiled & went with the flow. We played with them longer.

I just learned their official name is “Tiger Salamander.” I never needed to know that as a kid.

How they got in those window wells was a mystery. It was like they just caged themselves & waited. Food & water doesn’t just fall into window wells. We often found dead remains.

We’d place the live ones in a wagon & walk them over to the swamp. This was heaven for wildlife, we figured. The swamp was our solution for every wildlife release – turtles, snakes, salamanders -- and the toads that hadn’t yet peed on us.

It was fun to search, rescue & release a living creature. Looking back, we were far too cavalier in our searches. We should’ve worked that route once a week to save more lives.

Own a home? Check your window wells. You may be the only hope for some smiley guy.

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P.S. Check the edges and corners of the window wells carefully. They attempt to burrow out of their situation and are sometimes hidden by dirt.

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