It’s starting to feel like Wild Kingdom around here….
On Tuesday, I was up in the office working away as normal, when I hear Dave coming down the hall. He popped his head in the doorway, and said “Umm… so I was just in the basement… and I found a little lizard…”
WTF???? My mind was racing… because…
1) We don’t have have many native lizards in Ontario. In fact, we only have one. The Common Five-lined Skink. And it certainly isn’t from around here. (and in my 42 years, I’ve never actually see one)
2) How in heck would a lizard even get in our basement???
So he hands me a little plastic takeout dish and l look inside…
Holy crap on a cracker!!! That appears to be a lizard. But how?????
So I do some quick image searching/googling. It’s not a lizard… but a newt! (Which is a type of salamander and an amphibian, of which Ontario has several). But still how did it end up in the basement??**
At that point, it wasn’t the most pressing question. What we really needed to answer was… what the heck were we going to do with it??
I knew that salamanders, like toads and frogs, usually dug in an hibernated over winter. But it was far too cold out to put him back outside. (Another quick google search confirmed this. Temps would have to be consistently above zero).
More googling told me that he was a Red-Spotted Newt, and a juvenile one at that. And that newts are frequently kept as pets. Dave looked at me and said… “We have an aquarium, and a light. He won’t need heat like a tropical lizard, so we don’t need a heater… we just need some ‘decor’ and food… we have all the expensive stuff, so we might as well keep him.”
So after work, I headed into Sarnia to PetSmart… and $140 later (so much for having the expensive stuff…)
We made a nice little set-up for him. Because he’s still a juvenile (what they call and ‘eft’), he’s actually terrestrial. He won’t go back to a mostly aquatic life until he’s an adult. So for now, we just needed to give him a moist, forest-floor type environment. I did it with a layer of fish gravel, a layer of coconut fibre, and a whole bunch of sphagnum moss. I added in some cuttings from a few of my house plants, and spray everything down so it was dripping wet to create the level of humidity he would need.
And while I decorated, Dave gave our new friend a name – Newt Scamander!
I bought him a pile of different freeze dried bugs, but he didn’t seem to have much interest. He did seem happy to be in a nice, damp environment again. I imagine he was pretty dried out in the basement.
Eventually, he buried himself in the moss. The next morning, none of the food was gone. Same with the next day.
I did some more googling… and apparently efts are a little picky…. while the adults will eat freeze-dried insects and pellets, the efts are notorious for only eating live food. So off to the store I went again, and came home with a couple tubs of live meal worms.
It’s been a couple day now. I haven’t actually seen him eat anything, but the worms are disappearing. He is a bit of an anti-social little guy, and it can be really hard to find him in the tank. But the basement was surely a dry death trap for him.
Dave and I talked, and if we can get him through the winter, we’ll probably release him in the spring. But for now any time I see/hear the word newt… this is all I’m thinking…
** To answer how the little guy ended up in our basement…. a little more research told me it’s not that uncommon. As the weather cools, the newts go looking for warm/dark places to hibernate for the winter. Normally, they find old logs, leaf litter, etc.. but every so often they find a basement. It seems good at first, there usually even a good supply of insects for snacking… but basements (even wet ones) usually end up being too dry, and the poor guys dehydrate.
I’ve heard of garter snakes (and other types of snakes) coming into basements for similar reasons, but never thought about newts doing it.
The fact that we only have a partial basement (just under the kitchen), with a crawl space under the majority of the house, makes it even more likely to attract these guys.
Dave is now on newt watch every time he goes down the stairs!