Monday, October 14, 2013

The salamander's great escape

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails and puppy dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.

This bit of the little poem about boys and girls should have included a line about salamanders. At least, that's what I've decided after observing how much Dan loves the slippery, slimy, wiggly little creepers.

Each summer, Dan waits and waits for salamander season. When is salamander season? Salamander season is that time of year in the fall when, all of sudden, there are salamanders everywhere.

When salamander season starts, we find salamanders in the gutters in the barn (not a good place for them). We find salamanders hanging out on the sidewalk to the house. We find salamanders creeping through the grass on the lawn.

black and yellow spotted salamander

And when salamanders are found, they're captured. Most of the time, the captive salamanders are kept in a pail, with a little bit of water in the bottom. We let the kids keep the salamanders overnight and then they have to let them go. Sometimes, captured salamanders end up elsewhere – like in the refrigerator.

So, it should come as no surprise that we had a salamander in a pail in our front porch a couple of weeks ago. I found the salamander on the sidewalk and gave it to Dan. He asked for a pail to keep it in, so I got him an ice cream pail from the house.

When the kids came in for dinner, the salamander came with them – right into the kitchen. I turned Dan around and told him the salamander had to stay in the entryway. So, he set the salamander's pail in the corner by the doorway.

After dinner, we all went back outside to do evening chores. When we got back to the house after chores, Dan went to get the salamander. I was just coming through the door, when I heard him exclaim, "Where's my salamander?"

"What?" I automatically asked, hoping I hadn't heard him correctly.

"My salamander is gone," Dan said.

I looked in the pail. The water was still there. But there was no salamander.

Great. There's a salamander loose in our house.

I told the kids we'd look for it after we changed out of our barn clothes.

Glen just laughed and said, "You realize you're trying to find a creature that makes its living by being a master of disguise."

While we changed, I told the kids that salamanders like dark, damp places. They decided they should search the bathroom first.

By the time I changed my clothes and had undressed Daphne, Monika was squealing that she saw the salamander.

"It's in the office," she shrieked. "I saw it's tail go under the door."

I rushed to the office. It took a couple seconds after I opened the door, but I soon spotted the salamander crawling toward the desk.

Except it didn't look like a salamander. It looked like a salamander in a dust bunny costume. Which was seriously discouraging, since I've been deep cleaning like a mad-woman since school started.

No, I didn't take a picture. I whisked the dust bunny-salamander to the sink and rinsed him off under the hard water faucet. Dan had fetched the salamander's pail, so I set him back in it.

Then I told Dan that he had to say good night to the salamander and let him go outside. He protested until I explained that if the salamander managed to escape from the pail once, he could probably do it again.

"But, how did he get out?" Dan asked.

"I have no idea," I said. "Maybe he climbed out."

"We should have put him in a milk house pail (aka a five gallon pail)," Dan said.

"Yes, we should have. No more salamanders in ice cream pails."

I should probably extend that to no more salamanders – or other critters – in the house, but I know better than to put unrealistic limits on a little boy who loves creatures, especially the slippery, slimy, wiggly ones.


  1. I found your blog after googling, "salamander loose in house." My husband found one in our garden while digging around. Pulled the thing out of hibernation, apparently, so our three boys and the three neighbor boys could play with it...or whatever little boys do with slimy creatures! They put it in a very small plastic aquarium with aquarium rocks and water. And it somehow ended up inside my house last night despite all my protest. While getting the oldest two ready for school this morning, I noticed the slimy little thing was gone!!!! No clue where to even start looking as I am sure it escaped over night since they are nocturnal? No more critters in this house!

  2. Oh, this comment made me smile! I did have a talk with our kids after our salamader escape about outside animals staying outside. We'll have to see how well they heed my words now that another critter season is upon us. Did you ever find the salamander?


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