Emigration behavior of spotted salamanders on golf courses in southern Rhode Island

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Few studies have investigated the emigration behavior of adult ambystomatid salamanders in fragmented landscapes. We assessed the emigration behavior of 30 Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) by implanting transmitters in 2003. Study sites, all in southern Rhode Island, included an active golf course, a golf course under construction, and a closed-canopy forest that served as a control site. Maximum dispersal distances from breeding ponds ranged from 44-467 m (mean = 145, SE = 20 m), with the maximum distance twice as far as prior studies on this species. Spotted Salamanders exhibited distinct preferences for terrestrial habitats by avoiding fairways and selecting forested uplands and forested wetlands. The use of forested wetlands was unusual because most past research has suggested avoidance of this habitat by Spotted Salamanders. We documented adult Spotted Salamanders crossing fairways to adjacent forest patches; thus, fairways were not a dispersal barrier. Compared to random points, adult Spotted Salamanders selected cool microhabitats with greater leaf litter depth, more coarse woody debris, more canopy cover, less herbaceous cover, and high densities of vertical and horizontal small mammal burrows. These results suggest that maintaining extensive upland and wetland forested habitats near breeding ponds, with significant amounts of deep leaf litter, coarse woody debris, and high small mammal densities will help sustain Spotted Salamanders. Copyright 2006 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Herpetology