The federally-threatened frosted flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum) is a long and slender salamander that occurs in the Panhandle eastward of the Apalachicola River and in the northern counties of the peninsula. The species has sharply declined in recent years, and the very few remaining breeding ponds are in poor condition. Flatwoods salamander breeding ponds were historically maintained by early summer lightning fires that burned through the pond basins when they were dry, but modern prescribed fire practices favor burning under unnaturally cool and wet conditions. The result is that fire is excluded from salamander breeding habitats, allowing shrubs and dead leaves to accumulate and shade out the grasses and herbs that salamanders require for their eggs and larvae. To help conserve this threatened species, FWC biologists experimentally head started frosted flatwoods salamanders in the Apalachicola National Forest in northwest Florida. During the winter, a team collected small clusters of salamander eggs by meticulously searching vegetation around pond edges and in dry pond basins in early winter.
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FWC image by Pierson Hill