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Tiger salamanders need volunteers to make sure they can safely cross the road in Laramie

Tiger salamander during 2021 spring migration.
Mason Lee

The University of Wyoming’s Biodiversity Institute is asking the Laramie community to help protect the urban population of Tiger Salamanders, Wyoming’s state amphibian. The salamanders spend the winter months in the residential area across from LaBonte Park. In the spring, the salamanders migrate to their breeding grounds to the mud of “Stink Lake,” laying hundreds of eggs. The salamanders are nocturnal and spend most of their life in mud tunnels underground so they are hard to spot any other time than when they migrate.

Mason Lee, Senior Project Manager at the Biodiversity Institute, said that there has been a group helping salamanders cross the road for years but this year is the first where they’ll be doing more official data gathering.

“This is the first year that we're starting the Laramie Salamander Migration Initiative to collect data on this population and to involve the community more,” she said.

They will host an event on April 9 at the UW Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center called “Salamander Saturday” for the community to learn more about Wyoming’s populations of tiger salamanders and play games from 10:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Last year, across two nights, 20 dead salamanders were found on the road trying to make their way to LaBonte Park. Lee said that during those same two nights her group helped 250 salamanders.

Lee said the Salamander Initiative will provide better data as well as advocate for more safety precautions.

“This year, we asked the city to maybe install a temporary speed limit sign on migration nights, or some kind of sign that indicates to those people on the road. They're not able to do that this year, unfortunately,” she said.

But the City of Laramie will be providing high visibility vests for volunteers this year who will patrol 9th and Canby.

Lee is encouraging everyone around the state to report tiger salamander sightings to the initiative via their website to better understand the population of Wyoming’s state amphibian.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.

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