Double Life of the Eastern Newt

It’s Spring and salamanders are on the march. They are looking for love in all the damp places: Woodlands, streamsides, swamps, ditches, leaf litter. However, if you see a bright orange one with two rows of small red dots ringed by black on its back, relax, it may not be looking for love. It is just out to secure a juicy morsel. This little fellow (who has a nice coat of toxic chemicals as protection from predators) is a young newt, also known as a red eft. You will often see them in the woods, on paths and roads after a rain.

Last spring and summer I must have moved a hundred newts off the Hudson Valley Rail Trial pavement in Highland. Some were only an inch long—not easy to pick up! Others were a more mature two to four inches. The life span of a newt is around fifteen years, but surviving their larval stage and first winter is a matter of great luck. On maturity, they go back to the water to feed, live and reproduce.

Throughout their lives they are carnivores and eat just about any invertebrate including insects, larvae, crustacean, fish, fish eggs, worms, tadpoles, etc. Newts serve us well by eating mosquito larvae. This is especially welcome with our normal mosquito eradicators, our bat population, decimated by White Nose Syndrome.

So, please, watch your step on the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, or any place the newt might wander after a rain. And if you can, gently move them to safety… we want all of these little guys to survive!