The road that passes in front of Zion Hill Baptist Church is always good for “herps,” or amphibians and reptiles, on rainy early mornings. The little creek often overflows the road, creating a through-way for frogs and salamanders. Today was no exception despite the autumn season. A drive though in the pre-dawn revealed what appears to be a Seal Salamander (Desmognathus monticola) a denizen of Blue Ridge creeks. These guys are a good source of protein for black bears, who probably enjoy a rubbery salamander over crunching insects.
Salamanders are a big part of the southern Appalachian food web. They make up a lot of the total protein mass on the forest floor. They create that protein by consuming many, many times their own body weights in invertebrates. Most of those invertebrates will have spent their lives chewing up the fallen leaves on the forest floor.