How can I attract amphibians?

Brown salamander on wooden deck
Photo credit: Micah Losli
Q:

I live on the edge of Summer lake. We have a fresh water pond as well. The other day I found a salamander in my compost pile and I was delighted. I was curious if you have any ideas of native plants and habitate development to promote the return of frogs, and other amphibians. I think I hear that the toads have taken over the scene but I'd like to make sure I can restore the presence of more amphibians. 

- Lake County, Oregon
A:

Most people think of plants when it comes to habitat restoration for native fauna, however it is so much more. The idea of planting native flora comes from the two groups of animals that are driving the restoration craze - birds and beneficial insects. But you will notice the animals in these categories fly for the most part. 

Amphibian habitat restoration takes a different approach. Since they have to travel from breeding site (water) to feeding site over land, they need habitat corridors. These consist of strips of vegetation and cover (rocks, logs, etc.) that connect these two areas. And any roads that cut across these areas are a death trap for amphibians as well as reptiles.

Any native plants that you chose will help, however I suppose those that attract insects (flowering) would be preferred as they will also provide a food source. The pond itself should have vegetation in the water to attach egg masses to as well as vegetation along the edge for hiding and mating.

One of the best covers for amphibians are root masses. Think of what is left over after a tree is cut down. That stump and root ball if dug up and turned on its side provides excellent cover.

As important as all of this is, if your are using pesticides in your garden, those will harm amphibians. That includes fungicides and herbicides. Reduce these chemicals if you want more amphibians.

Lastly, do not stock the pond with tadpole-eating fish such as goldfish.

Set your sights on providing hiding spaces and reducing chemicals and you will be successful.

Michael O'Loughlin
Yamhill County Master Gardener
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