Neosho Mucket Mussel
A portion of Shoal Creek, which runs through Wildcat Park, home of the Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center in Joplin, Missouri, has been designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as critical habitat for the federally endangered Neosho Mucket Mussel.
This water body, the main public water source for the cities of Joplin and Neosho, if a primary focus of many of our educational exhibits and programs. By utilizing the best management practices in this watershed and protecting the water quality in Shoal Creek, we not only help ensure a clean water source for humans to utilize, but also for many aquatic species like this endangered mussel.
Eastern Narrowmouth Toad
The eastern narrowmouth toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis) is a relatively small, toad-like amphibian found in damp, shady habitats. It spends a great deal of time burrowing in the ground and feeds primarily on ants. This toad is distinguished from true toads by their moist, smooth skin, the lack of an eardrum, their body shape, and the unique fold of skin just behind the eyes across their head.
This toad is relatively small, growing only to a length of approximately 2 inches. It has an oval shaped body and a narrow head with a pointed snout. The colors vary from brown and gray to green, with black and white spotting. Although this species lacks an eardrum, their vocal sack is clearly visible. Most toads have rough warty skin, but the narrowmouth toad has smooth skin without ridges and warts. However, their skin is very tough and protects them from their prey, ants.
These toads are found throughout the Southeastern United States but are absent from any higher elevations, and mountains. The eastern narrowmouth toad is not protected in our area but is on the threatened or endangered species list for many states, including Kansas and Illinois. The main reason for this status is habitat loss.
The cave salamander (Eurycea lucifuga) is a medium sized salamander with a very long tail. It has noticeable dark brown or black spots covering it’s bright orange skin and yellow belly. It is typically only 4-6 inches long and most often found in caves as the name indicates. The adult lacks lungs and gills, so the oxygen required to live is taken in from the environment through their skin and the mucous membrane in the mouth.
They eat slugs, worms, insects, and arthropods and breed in early summer. The female may lay 50-90 eggs in a cave stream, spring, or rocky stream outside of a cave. The larvae are gilled and may live in the stream up to 2 years. When they exit the water they are typically 2 inches in length.
As with most creatures living in caves, this salamander should not be disturbed. The ecological balance in any cave environment is extremely fragile and any disturbance (pollution, removal of species, etc.) can have devastating effect.
This elusive salamander is an Ozark treasure and any encounter with it should be under extreme caution. While it may be a common amphibian in the Ozark Plateau, it does not have a very broad range throughout North America. It is one of those “poster species” for cave ecosystems and should be valued by those who live in this region.