Rare Central newt found in eastern Iowa during field trip

IOWA CITY (AP) — Some Iowa City Community School District students snagged an interesting find on a recent nature field trip: a rare Central newt.
Kids normally net an assortment of turtles, frogs and snails during the annual School of the Wild field trips in eastern Iowa. Fifth-grader Brody Hiscock thought he’d scooped a leech into his net, until he noticed it had legs.
“It was slimy. Kind of wet,” Hiscock said.
Chad Swope, who leads the field trips, said herpetologists confirmed the small salamander as a Central newt — a threatened species not native to Johnson County.
Paul Frese, a research technician for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ wildlife diversity program, said last week’s is the only Central newt finding he knows of in Johnson County. Sometimes thought of as a subspecies of the Eastern newt, the salamander typically dwells in areas near the Cedar and Wapsipinicon rivers, Frese said.
He said the organization HerpMapper contacted him about the finding.
“That’s pretty cool in itself,” he said.
Frese said the department likes to hear from community members who uncover unique finds, noting he would be interested to learn of any other Central newt sightings.
The School of the Wild program seeks to raise awareness about natural areas, increase students’ appreciation of the wilderness and encourage protection of such areas, Swope said.