BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia has more than 40 state emblems – you might know of some, including the state bird, the northern cardinal, and the state flower, the American dogwood. But do you know what our state salamander is?
Thanks to the Salamander Savers, a Virginia-based 4-H group of kids ranging in age from 8 to 18, it is now the red salamander (Pseudotriton ruber).
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, sponsored the bill at the urging of the young conservationists, who also received support from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Virginia Herpetological Society and naturalists and teachers from around the state. The group has been working towards this for two years, raising awareness about salamanders – and the striking crimson amphibian in the spotlight – along the way.
The Salamander Savers were founded in response to the dredge of a Fairfax lake in 2015. Three children were inspired to save the salamanders from the surrounding lake, appealing to local government officials for help.
“When our lake was dredged, my kids asked me questions that I wasn’t able to answer. As a home-schooling mother, I was determined to try to find answers to their questions,” said Anna Kim, the 4-H club’s adult leader and mother of the club’s president, 14-year-old Jonah Kim.
The 4-H members attended meetings, advocated in front of adults, and fought to save the lake’s vernal pools. Last year the Salamander Savers visited Richmond more than seven times to meet with legislators, even drawing pictures of the red salamander on cards to hand out to lawmakers.
This year’s bill to make the red salamander a state emblem passed 96-1 in the House of Delegates and 39-1 in the Senate. By bringing attention to the red salamander, Salamander Savers members hope to raise awareness about all 56 species of salamander that reside in Virginia.