In the tiny hamlet of Oxford Mills, Friday evenings are Mudpuppy Night. The open water below the old mill dam offers an unusual opportunity to encounter Ontario’s aquatic salamanders in winter habitat. Dr. Fred Schueler, who has surveyed the mudpuppy population at Oxford Mills for a number of years, shares his expertise with visitors. You can learn more about the event at his website linked here. It is reported:
Since 1998 Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills’has been taking observers to the only place in Ontario where Mudpuppies have been repeatedly observed in large numbers throughout the winter, the longest-running winter hempetological outing in Canada.
Seabrooke and I had been trying to coordinate an outing for much of the winter and finally made it to Oxford Mills on the evening of February 21st. It drizzled for much of the day, but late in the afternoon the rain stopped and the sun came out just in time to set. We joined an intrepid group from the Kingston Field Naturalists who had made the long drive to attend.
The mudpuppies can be seen on the rocky bed of the river, highlighted by Fred’s flashlight. A few are gently netted and placed in a cooler so that visitors can get a better look at them.
This was a return visit for Seabrooke and I. We first attended Mudpuppy Night in 2011. You can find additional photos of the mudpuppies at my earlier blog post linked here.
Mudpuppies are amazing. This information is provided on the Mudpuppy Night website:
Mudpuppies, Necturus maculosus, are foot-long permanently aquatic Salamanders. They retain the gills and smooth skin of larvae as adults, and go undetected in many water-bodies because of their secretive habits. Mudpuppies are slow and cautious, though they can swim nearly as fast as a fish on occasion. In May females deposit 50-150 eggs on the underside of a flat rock. The female guards the eggs, and attends the larvae after they hatch.
About 25 years ago herpetologists realized that Mudpuppies are active, and feed actively, all winter, because they can be caught in baited minnowtraps in the winter but not in the summer. Mudpuppies were long famous for having more DNA in each cell than just about any other animal, and this winter activity has shown that the abundant DNA provides Mudpuppies with the array of temperature-adjusted enzymes they require to remain active in water from 0°-32° C. Mudpuppies are fairly common in the Ottawa River and its major tributaries, north to the Arctic Watershed, and the Canadian range extends through southern Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.