OSOYOOS — They’re one of the largest land dwelling salamanders in the world but they’re also endangered.
Due to habitat destruction the number of blotched tiger salamanders has been in decline in recent years, so when a south Okanagan family found nearly two dozen dead last week they were shocked.
In any given year the Stevens’ family will find one or two dead salamanders in their pool. They say it’s all part of living near a lake where they spawn.
But last week as they were cleaning out their pool filter they found 22 dead salamanders with no explanation why.
“It was such a shock for me to find all these little fellows in the skimmer, I mean it was hopeless for them to get out of the pool” says homeowner, Carole Stevens.
The family suspects the salamander deaths have to do with the water quality at a lake across the highway from their property.
They say Highway 97 was widened in recent years and as a result water levels have been dropping at Deadman’s Lake, forcing these salamanders to seek refuge elsewhere.
However, experts say this was likely nothing more than a random occurrence.
Salamander larvae grow in water but move to land after they mature and on their way to terrestrial life they lose their gills and the ability to breath in water.
It’s likely these salamanders were just making their way upland but accidentally fell into the pool and drowned.
“It’s certainly a concern, but one of the things that happens with these young ones as well, there’s very high mortality on them as well, so this its not going to destroy the population there’s probably a lot more out there too in that area, but 22 at once is a big chunk” says Provincial Ecosystems Biologist, Orville Dyer.
Many amphibian species including toads and frogs make similar mass movements, crossing highways by the thousands.
But just to be sure, the Stevens family is keeping the salamanders so biologists can find out for certain what caused their death.