Mudpuppy Night

Last evening, we went to Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills, Ontario, Canada.

Grandkids waiting for Mudpuppies

Grandkids waiting for Mudpuppies

What the heck is a Mudpuppy, you ask?   “Mudpuppies, Necturus maculosus, are foot-long permanently aquatic Salamanders. They retain the gills and smooth skin of larvae as adults, and go undetected in many water-bodies because of their secretive habits. Mudpuppies are slow and cautious, though they can swim nearly as fast as a fish on occasion.”*   Every Friday night at 8 p.m., from Canadian Thanksgiving until the spring, this weekly nocturnal event takes place at the dam at Oxford Mills on the Kemptville Creek.  Mudpuppy Night is led by my friends Fred Schueler, a herpetologist, and Aleta Karstad, also an artist,  who live in the area.  For almost 30 years, they have documented their research and observations on these mudpuppies because these salamanders are most active all winter long.

Mudpuppies in a cooler

Mudpuppies in a cooler

Our family of observers included my son Darin, granddaughters Kalia and Livi, son Robin and Nici, son Marty and Jeanette, my grandson, and myself.  We arrived early in the small village, which has a general store, a fancy restaurant, a church, school, and some houses – your typical small town Canada village.  While waiting for Aleta and Fred to arrive, we played in the snow, had a snowball ‘fight’,  the grandkids sucked on icicles (as if the -15 celsius or +5F  temperature wasn’t cold enough!), and searched for mudpuppies from the bridge.  Several other carloads of adults and children arrived then Aleta and Fred.  They had with them a cooler with two mudpuppies in it from last week.  They usually keep no more than 3 mudpuppies for the week to make observations and notes before letting them go the following Friday.  There was a layer of ice floating on top, just the way the creatures love it.  Kalia couldn’t wait to get her hands in the icy water to touch them, followed quickly by Livi.

Along the Creek

Along the Creek

Fred and Aleta patiently explained the mudpuppies habitat and gave information about them as well as answering any questions.  Then we walked down the embankment to the river and freed the captive creatures.  Others put on hip waders or rubber boots and went into the ice cold creek with minnow nets to catch other mudpuppies for observation. “Flat bedrock and clear shallow water provide safe footing for researchers and spectators of large numbers of giant aquatic Salamanders pursuing their winter activities.”*  They have observed up to 180 Mudpuppies on an average Friday night.  We stood in the deep snow at the side of the creek watching and waiting for the first catch, which arrived after only a few minutes.  Again, Kalia and Livi took their mitts off and ‘petted’ the mudpuppies in the cooler.  Their little hands were red because they were SO cold.  Finally, my grandson braved the freezing water and touched the salamanders, not to be outdone be his girl cousins.  Kalia peppered Fred with lots of questions which he answered completely to her satisfaction. Mudpuppies are amazing creatures!   They have more DNA in each cell than any other animal and this provides them with wide range of temperature-adjusting enzymes required to remain active in the freezing cold water.

Fred patiently answering Kalia's questions

Fred patiently answering Kalia’s questions

Almost 30 years ago, Fred and Aleta began recording Mudpuppy activities in the Kemptville Creek.  In 1998, ‘Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills’ began “taking observers to the only place in Ontario where Mudpuppies have been repeatedly observed in large numbers throughout the winter – the longest-running winter herpetological outing in Canada.”

Observing Mudpuppies

Observing Mudpuppies along the Creek

Unfortunately, I had to leave to pick up my son from work so I wasn’t able to stay and retire with the rest of the crowd back to the Brigadoon Restaurant for hot chocolate and ‘mudpuppy talk’.  We had a fun and educational time at Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills!  If you live in or visit Eastern Ontario during the winter, I urge you to attend Mudpuppy Night – 8 p.m. every Friday night in Oxford Mills.  Thanks Fred and Aleta for all the work you do!



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Fred Schueler
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 14:05:43

    …very nice to have had such a succession of intelligent questions. The NatureList report on the outing is at


  2. thatoldschoolgirl
    Dec 31, 2012 @ 05:27:41

    Very cool. It’s a must see if I make it up that way. I had no idea mudpuppies lived in Canada. Good to know that the population seems to be alive and well.


    • grammomsblog
      Dec 31, 2012 @ 09:10:11

      Yes, aren’t they amazing? I’d never even heard of them until Fred and Aleta introduced us to them way back when…… They are such beautiful creatures!


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