Salamanders of the Pacific Northwest Lowlands



x Northwestern Salamander Ambystoma gracile 

Identifying Features: Brown, shows distinct ribs called Costal grooves, and has oval shaped bumps just behind the eye.

This Salamander lays huge egg masses in early March which are the size of softballs and remain firm until they hatch. The eggs are tiny when they are laid but absorb  water and swell.

This salamander is in the Mole salamander family and they are often found underground in shallow burrows. The larvae live in water for an entire year and metamorphose the spring after hatching.  When disturbed they may emit a milky substance from the glands behind the eye which is not particularly toxic to humans but you do not want to get this in your eyes.
Long-toed Salamander  Ambystoma macrodactylum

Identifying Features: This salamander is shiny and has white speckling along its sides. It often has a yellowish, irregular stripe on the top of the back.  Its fourth toe on the hind foot is substantially longer than the other toes.

This is the earliest breeding of the salamanders of our area, it migrates to ponds in December and lays eggs in January. The adults move out of water pretty much as soon as they are done with egg laying and can be found under logs or rocks. Like all salamanders they are predators on small invertebrates.  In the lowlands the larvae metamorphose into adults by Fall.

Ensatina  Ensatina escholtzii

Identifying Features: Slender orange/brown salamander with big eyes. The legs are often translucent and there is a noticeable constriction at the base of the tail.

This little Salamander has no lungs, so it breathes through its skin. It lives under old logs and boards that have a high moisture content. They lay their  eggs in the summer in protected covered areas and the female stays nearby and will curl around them to protect them, the only amphibian to care for its young.  The males do an elaborate courtship "dance" and after several hours will deposit a spermatophore which the female picks up.  If roughly handled they will exude a milky poison which is not toxic to humans but you do  not want to get this in your eyes. Also, the tail can break off, and when it does it twitches, hopefully catching the attention of the predator while the tail-less salamander crawls to safety. It takes a couple of years to replace the tails and sometimes you can find this species with a odd, short tail as it grows a new one.

Rough-skinned newt  Tarcha granulosa

Identifying Features:  Dry, rough brown skin, undersides yellow orange.

The first warm rainy night in March look for this creature as it migrates, sometimes by the hundreds to its breeding ponds.  They wander widely when not in water, but return each year to the pool of their birth.  The larvae metamorphose into adults in late summer.  If handled roughly they will emit a white milky substance, and this is a highly potent neurotoxin that you do not want to ingest or get in your eyes.  Sometimes when provoked this species will lift up its head and tail, showing the orange undersides as a warning of its poisonous nature.


Western Red-backed Salamander  Plethodon  vehiculum

Identifying Features: Broad, even edged yellow or reddish stripe on the back.

This Salamander has no lungs and breaths through its skin. It lives its entire life in the forest staying close to fallen logs or stumps, rarely venturing more than a few yards from its home. It is mostly nocturnal in habits and on rainy, warm fall nights it ventures out in search of mates.  The male leaves a spermatophore on the ground which the female picks up. Eggs are laid  singly the following spring in moist rotting logs.  The young have no larval stage, and come out of the eggs fully formed as miniature adults.