The Highlands Nature Center held its annual Salamander Meander July 3 and guided families at night through the Botanical Garden in search of different types of the newt-like amphibians.
“We do this to highlight the fact that we have the highest diversity of salamanders in the world and it’s important for people to know that,” said Eliese Ronke, Nature Center education specialist. “They hide very well and most people don’t know that they’re here.”
Ronke added that this is a great activity for families with children because salamanders are a lot more durable than people think and it gives the kids a chance to catch and actually hold a salamander.
“They’ve heard about salamanders and frogs but seeing them up close is a much different experience,” she said.
Taylor Smith, 6, from Atlanta said she saw about 20 salamanders and got the chance to hold one.
“I picked one up because I wanted to see it and feel it,” said Smith. “It felt slimy and after I picked it up it felt sticky, but I liked finding all the salamanders and feeling them.”
Daniel Mole, 9 of Melbourne, Fla., said he would definitely go on this adventure again.
“I just liked catching them, they were so slimy,” said Mole.
He added that it was “really fun,” going out into the woods at night.
Mole’s mother, Leslie Mole, said they have done this before and the kids love it.
“Last time we were in Highlands we did it and it was the highlight of the day,” said Leslie. “I think it teaches the kids to look around them when they’re outdoors.”
Leslie’s daughter Isabella, 11, agreed with her brother that it was a great experience.
“It was fun because we got to search and look for different creatures,” said Isabella. “And we learned all about different types of salamanders.”
Ronke said she was pleased with the number of people who participated in the event.
“It was a good turnout,” she said. “Our evening programs tend to be popular but on July 4 week, they are chalked full.”
To learn more about the nature Center’s programs click here.
Article and photos by Brian O’Shea