For a long time now, I have gazed at photos of Four Toed Salamanders (Hemidactylium
scutatum) in books and in posts on the various forums. I have always wanted to see one of these little caudates in
the wild. I am intrigued by the hard to find species, and this critter falls into that category. I got a tip on where to find
Hemidactylium from someone I know, and of course, I had to investigate. Finding these in Illinois is no easy task. Most of
the populations around Chicago are considered extripated, and there are only a few known populations left in northern Illinois.
This species is listed as Threatened in Illinois.
It was a two hour drive from my house to get to the spot. I met
my boss, Lynn Corey, at his house, and we went out in search of these elusive creatures. The skys looked like they may open
up on us at any time, but we were lucky to only get a few light sprinkles. In order to get to the springs where the salamanders
reside, we needed to walk down a steep hill, which was covered with interesting plants like ferns, and Jack-in-the-Pulpits.
We finally reached the cool streams located at the bottom of the hill, and began looking under logs and moss. This habitat
looks perfect for Wood Frogs (Rana sylvatica) and Pickerel Frogs (Rana palustris,) although none were seen on this day. After about 45 minutes of searching, Lynn called, "Scott!
COME QUICK! Ooh, there's two of them!" I ran over to see him holding two Four Toed Salamanders, the species we had come to
Four Toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum)
The area around the seeps were covered with clumps of moss and rotting logs, the perfect habitat for these delicate salamanders.