I’ve been remiss in reporting some of the cool creepy-crawlies I’ve recently seen. This is a photo of a red eft. It’s the larval stage of the red-spotted newt. (At least that’s the species, Notophthalmus viridenscens, that is pictured in my published-in-the-70s, bought-in-the-80s copy of Ohio’s Amphibians; I don’t know if New Hampshire boasts a different species of eft.) Whereas most salamanders, similar to frogs and toads, have an aquatic “tadpole” stage before they mature into land-dwelling adults, newts live their amphibious life in reverse. Newts hatch in water, then after three or four months of gilled aquatic infanthood, they grow lungs, lose their gills, and spend two to three carefree “teenage” years on land before turning from eftish-orange to newtish-green and living the rest of their responsibly adult breeding life underwater.

When we lived in Hillsborough, NH, I’d see red efts littering the forest floor in the springtime. They looked like gummy candies, orange and alluring: you’d spot one, then another, and another. Although they look like rubbery, orange-flavored candies, their brightly colored skins serve as a warning to predators: like toads, red efts have skin glands that produce an irritating secretion. You can look, but beware not to touch!

When we moved to Keene last summer, I feared my eft-spotting days had ended. This past spring, I saw no efts in my Keene-area walkabouts: none at Goose Pond, none along the Ashuelot River, none at the Horatio Colony Preserve. You can imagine my delight, then, when I saw one lonely, very vulnerable-looking eft during my hike up Lovewell Mountain (he’s pictured here next to my hand to give you a sense of scale). Since Lovewell Mountain is in Washington, NH (right down the road from Hillsborough), I figured that Keene must lie outside the normal range of red-spotted newts and red efts. Surely Hillsborough and Washington are eft-country whereas Keene, alas, is not.

So you can, again, imagine my herpetological delight when I found not one but more than a half dozen red efts littering the forest floor during my recent jaunt up Beech Hill. That eminence, of course, lies within the Keene city limits: Beech Hill, in fact, is more or less in my own backyard, a ridge that’s visible from the laundromat at the end of my street and accessible via a 5 minute car ride followed by a 5 minute walk to the summit. So for nearly a year I’ve been fretting about the lack of red efts in lonely little Keene…and they’ve been kicking up their tiny amphibious orange toes within 10 minutes of my house the entire time.

I had to travel a little bit further to catch a glimpse of this next fella. This is a millipede I spotted while hiking with the dog at MacDowell Lake in Peterborough, NH, about a 30-minute drive from Keene. I can’t ever remember seeing a millipede in the middle of a forest path: they usually hide under logs to avoid light. I mention this last part a bit guiltily: when I first spotted Mr. Millipede (alas, I don’t know his specific species since I no longer own a field guide to arthropods), he was tightly curled around himself as myriapods are wont to do, and he moved (quickly!) only after I took a flash photo of him. He was, in a word, running away from the big evil giant with her nasty bright-flashing light! So apologies to Mr. Millipede for disturbing his out-in-the-open slumber…although it was cool to see all those legs in action. (Click here for an enlarged version of Mr. Millipede: he’s really quite gorgeous.)

How grateful I am that I never succumbed to the brainwashing that suggests that girls shouldn’t be interested in creepy-crawlies: to think that a “girly-girl” should run away squealing from efts and millipedes is rather sad. Why should guys like Gary and Kevin be the only ones to get some gee-whiz enjoyment out of the likes of geckos and centipedes? Any girly-girl who’s spent time trolling the dating scene knows that the world is full of creepy-crawlies: what better way to prepare for this sort of Wild Life than by getting to know all of one’s slithering and slimy neighbors?