Mudpuppies – and mudpuppy nights in Oxford Mills

Necturus maculosus maculosus - Common mudpuppy. Image: National Park Service, Creative Commons

Necturus maculosus maculosus – Common mudpuppy. Image: National Park Service, Creative Commons

The email from NCPR’s theater critic, Connie Meng, was headed: “mudpuppies”.

Any guesses as to what that is?

The name took me back to the signature desert of a restaurant where I once worked, the”mudpie“. (Which I would have liked more, had it not featured coffee ice cream.)

But apart from that decades-old memory, I hadn’t a clue.

It turns out Connie was sending me a heads-up for a local event featuring an amazing amphibian, Necturus maculosus, nicknamed waterdog, or mudpuppy.

And still I had no clue. What the heck was that?!

Internet to the rescue. To my unscientific eye, they look like small, round-cornered alligators, sort of. Definitely big enough to really notice, some are said to live as long as 30 years (!).

Here’s more from National Geographic:

Mudpuppies, also called waterdogs, are one of only a few salamanders that make noise. They get their name from the somewhat embellished notion that their squeaky vocalizations sound like a dog’s bark.

Among the largest of the salamanders, mudpuppies can exceed 16 inches (41 centimeters) in length, although the average is more like 11 inches (28 centimeters). Their range runs from southern central Canada, through the midwestern United States, east to North Carolina and south to Georgia and Mississippi.

Mudpuppies live on the bottoms of lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams, and never leave the water. They hide themselves in vegetation and under rocks and logs, emerging at night to feed on whatever prey they can catch, including crayfish, worms, and snails.

And? So? What makes that a local event, for the depths of February?

Well, it turns mudpuppies are mostly nocturnal and there’s an excellent spot to count and study them in Kemptville Creek, near a small dam site in Oxford Mills, Ontario. Indeed, it’s such a good “come & see” location that there’s sort of a mudpuppy party on many Friday nights – yes, in the winter, when they are reportedly more active. (Another “?!”)

For those so inclined, mudpuppy night can even include dinner at the well-known Oxford Mills destination restaurant, Brigadoon.

This Friday night the Macnamara Field Naturalists Club (based in Arnprior) is making that outing a group activity, as they’ve done in past years. Here’s a really interesting YouTube video from 2013 in which “…members visit an icy stream in mid-winter to watch Necturus maculosus (Mudpuppies) go about their business unperturbed by the cold or the watchers.” The weekly event is put on by area naturalists, Fred Schueler and Aleta Karstad. (Learn more about their work at

Here’s another video of observing mudpuppies in Oxford Mills, from this CBC news item, also from 2013.

There’s no need to tell readers it’s been pretty cold this week. I haven’t decided if I am going on Friday or not. But I’m writing about it now, should others be interested. (Note: Friday night looks warmer than earlier in the week, when I am writing this post.)

Quite apart from that Oxford Mills/citizen-scientist event, what’s your experience with mudpuppies?

Do you know them well? Or, as in my case, are they a whole new discovery?

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2 Comments on “Mudpuppies – and mudpuppy nights in Oxford Mills”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    I haven’t seen any mudpuppies up here but I do remember seeing them as a kid in some of the shallow sections of canals flowing into the Detroit River.
    Another odd creature I remember seeing in the canals but have not seen up here is the garpike. They are very long, swim like an eel and swim close to the surface where they sometimes take air through their long mouths.

  2. wakeup says:

    Pete – I believe Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence have gar fish.

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