Log/rock flipping: too damaging?

I’ve seen a few comments in the forum (and other places) describing log and rock flipping to find specimens.

What’s the take on this practice? I’ve always thought this was too destructive to the little systems out there. Yes? No? (Depends?)

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As long as you roll it back to exactly where it was it should be fine.


I do this alot and even have conducted a experiment. Where I took to small logs that contained termites after rolling over once a day I noticed very little if any disappearance of termites, I don’t know if that means anything though.


If you don’t want to do it it’s fine, I read in NA there’re salamanders that need those habitats a lot, here we don’t have organisms that suffer from disturbance of logs and rocks so much, all you need to do is put everything back in place, and be careful to not crash anything underneath.


Here in southeast NA it is the rock stacking that can ruin hellbender (endangered) habitat, but generally flipping a rock carefully and then replacing it as it was will be fine. My understanding is it is removal of things needed for habitat / destruction of the habitat by removing and/or moving rocks or such is what can cause the issues. And when people take all the nice river cobble and make all these stacks, that’s loss of habitat.


If the same rock/log gets flipped frequently it certainly could be a problem, but in low traffic areas, as long as they are replaced carefully, it shouldn’t be a problem.

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Yes. I see that all the time. That is, people (mostly with their kids) rolling over large logs in our woodland trail to look for salamanders. I honestly don’t know what to do in this situation. Of course, yeah – when I was a kid, I did this all the time without giving it much thought.

Maybe… that’s why they’re much harder to find these days? But how, what, do you tell these groups?

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It varies a lot. In general, exact replacement, don’t move something you aren’t sure you can put back, etc. There are a LOT of organisms you are not going to find without moving some cover, be it rocks, logs, leaves, etc.

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I prefer to lift the object straight up rather than role it so that I don’t crush anything underneath. When I’d done looking, I carefully place the object back down.

My take on this ‘depends’. also I’m a fern/plant guy primarily :)
So in regenerative forest, paddocks, ect I would do some stone tuning, if I was looking for that sort of thing, but in undisturbed, fragile/valuable country (even if part ‘spoiled’), national parks or especially wilderness zones, I’d be much less inclined to, especially in a high-traffic area, as mentioned above.
Always put every thing back as it was. There is also a strong deterrent here: some of the worlds deadliest spiders and snakes ;)


It is disappointing that interest in finding salamanders (or your whatever) isn’t paired with the knowledge about protecting those creatures by carefully restoring their habitat. Especially if the good intentions are sending the wrong message to their kids. ‘What’s a salamander, granpa?’

Recent walk in our national park at Cape Point - along the trail someone had flipped rocks, some quite substantial, and left them wrong. Heading into summer, those creatures have lost their shelter.

Needs a health warning on social media pictures (FB and Insta) - please carefully restore habitat so the next person can see one too. Also twitchy about a picture of a chameleon - indoors on someone’s hand - I hope just for the duration of the photo op.


I assume you have read this forum discussion? https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/do-you-feel-that-by-exploring-nature-we-are-also-killing-it/18371

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In forests, such activity is part of nature in most areas, e.g. it is something bears do routinely when foraging. But there are a lot more people than bears in the world, so if many people do a lot of it, it could be unduly detrimental. As others have suggested, it depends on context and should also be done in moderation when it is done.


I tend to avoid flipping logs that are extremally brittle/rotten, the ones that just fall apart when you move/touch them, to not damage potential habitat.

As long as rocks and logs are placed back with care and the way you found them I think its ok.

Another thing thats important is if you did find a herp under the log/rock, that you make sure they are not going to be crushed when you place the log/rock back onto them. Usually if im concerned about this, I will gently pick up the animal with a gloved hand, dig a small entry point to get back under the log and put the log back in place. Then I gently move the little fella to the entrance tunnel that I made, so they can get back under the log safely. Usually they scramble right back under with a little poke, then refill the entry tunnel with leaves and brush.


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