Wintturi Shelter to Churchill Scott Shelter – 22 miles
The trail was crawling with red spotted newts today. Or, more accurately, not crawling, because these cute little critters travel in slow motion.
When I saw the first one I thought it was dead, but it seems odd to croak right in the middle of the trail.
For a moment I wondered if it could be a dropped gummy candy, but quickly remembered thru hikers wouldn’t waste food like that.
After I saw a dozen or so motionless newts, I wondered if maybe the poikilotherms got too cold to move? But no, the weather stays too warm for that explanation.
So I looked it up.
These goofy creatures are ubiquitous in eastern North America and have three phases to their life cycle. They hatch as green tadpoles that live in water. Then, the juvenile red spotted “efts” I’ve been seeing crawl out of their birth pond and wander about on land until they reach more water. Ideally they enter a new pond, increasing mixing in the population’s gene pool. Back in the water to mate, the adult newts turn green again. Keeping an eye out at the shoreline, it has not been difficult to spot all three life phases off this little salamander.
The newts would be very easy for a predator to catch because they’re so conspicuous and slow moving, but their bright red aposematic coloration warns birds and fish of their toxic skin. This survival strategy appears to be working because I saw probably twenty of these newts today, happily taking their time to search for a new aquatic home.