45 Different Types of Salamanders in California

Different Types of Salamanders in California
Photo by Kristina Kutleša

California is home to dozens of species of salamanders, many of which are not native to the state. But they were brought here by humans and now live in the wild. 

While they may look similar, salamanders have very different behaviors and habitats. And each type has its place in the ecosystem. 

Therefore, check out this list if you want to learn more about these diverse amphibians. That is the list of some of the types of salamanders in California.

From the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Golden Gate Bridge, there should be one or two around!

1. Relictual Slender Salamander

The Relictual Slender Salamander lives only in Mendocino County, where it prefers to spend its days hiding under rocks.

It is hard to tell whether you’ve found one or not, as they come out at night. You might need a keen eye or perhaps a salamander-sniffing dog.

2. Kings River Slender Salamander

The Kings River slender salamander (Batrachoseps regius) is a member of one of North America’s largest families, Plethodontidae.

And it is one of the types of salamanders in California. They have shiny black bodies and broad yellow bands that look like smiles across their large eyes. 

However, these bands help to camouflage them from predators. Their small size grows to be only 4 inches long as adults. And also helps make them less noticeable to larger animals who might try to eat them.

3. Channel Islands Slender Salamander

The Channel Islands Slender Salamanders (Batrachoseps pacificus) are one of the types of salamanders in California.

That is on Catalina Island, San Clemente Island, Santa Barbara Island, Santa Cruz Island, and San Nicolas Island. 

Moreso, they live on rocky outcroppings at low elevations. Adults grow to between 3 to 5 inches long. The eggs are laid under rocks near streams during the rainy season between April and October.

4. Black-bellied Slender Salamander

The black-bellied slender salamanders are one of the small types of salamanders in California, reaching lengths up to 5 inches.

Most individuals are light brown or tan in color, with dark blotches running down their backs. They have five toes on each foot, with two external gills on each side of their body near their shoulders. 

However, this particular species lives its entire life underwater, typically living underneath rocks. And other debris along stream beds where they can stay hidden from predators.

5. Lesser Slender Salamander

The Lesser Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps altioculatus) is an endangered species that is highly dependent on vernal pools for reproduction. It can also be found near urban ponds, artificial lakes, and swimming pools.

This salamander is notable for being one of only two kinds of lungless salamanders native to California.

6. Garden Slender Salamander

The Garden Slender Salamander is one of more than 120 types of salamanders in California.

These salamanders can be found in central and northern California areas, including grassy meadows, wet forests, swamps, rainforests, pine groves, chaparral regions, or desert scrub. 

However, the Garden Slender Salamander grows up to 6 inches long, and its skin is brown with black flecks. Its belly can be white or yellowish-brown. 

Moreso, the Garden Slender lives close to water bodies during parts of its life cycle. It uses its tail for swimming to get from place to place along stream banks or coastal estuaries. But does not need water for reproduction.

7. Desert Slender Salamander

The desert slender salamander, Batrachoseps aridus, is found in Southern California. It inhabits desert scrub and grasslands. This salamander is usually 5 to 6 inches long and lasts two years. 

Moreso, the coloration on its back varies from light tan to dark brown with a yellowish or white belly. During mating season, males develop warts on their heads and orange-red markings on their sides. 

Also, like other species of salamanders, they will excrete toxic mucous onto their skin when threatened by a predator. And which protects them from predators until it dries up after about 20 minutes.

8. Santa Lucia Mountains Slender Salamander

The Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamander, Batrachoseps aridus santaeluciae, is a subspecies of long-tailed salamander endemic to California.

Like all long-tailed salamanders, their elongated bodies and broad tails are characterized by their elongated bodies. And it’s one of the types of salamanders in California.

9. Sequoia Slender Salamander

The Sequoia slender salamanders are also one of the types of salamanders in California and live their entire life on land.

The female lays her eggs in moist soil, which then hatch into larvae that are similar to worms. To breathe, they have external gills. 

Moreover, these salamanders enter a tail-off stage when it’s time to mature. During this, they live as adults but retain their juvenile tails. Their overall size ranges from 2-4 inches long.

10. San Simeon Slender Salamander

The San Simeon Slender Salamander is one of the types of salamander in California. That is, which can be found from Northern Baja California to Lassen County, where it is normally found under rocks. 

However, the species was once considered a subspecies of Batrachoseps major. But studies indicate it’s genetically distinct (through mitochondrial DNA sequencing) from other Batrachoseps species in North America.

11. Gregarious Slender Salamander

The slender salamander, also known as the gregarious slender salamander, is one of five species belonging to the genus Batrachoseps.

And it’s also one of the types of salamanders in California. Despite its common name, it is not a true snake because it is an amphibian. 

Nevertheless, it has small eyes, short legs, and a skinny tail that tapers slightly at both ends. It can be found on hillsides and grassy fields with oak trees throughout California. As well as southern Oregon and Baja California in Mexico.

12. Gabilan Mountains Slender Salamander

With its brown, yellow, black, and white striped coloration, it’s hard not to notice a Gabilan Mountains Slender Salamander.

They spend most of their time hiding under rocks or other objects on logs or floating down rivers. The reason for all that hiding? 

However, they completely depend on streams for their lifecycle: from mating to breeding to laying eggs. So if you’re looking for them, make sure there’s water nearby because that’s probably where they are!

Scientists believe their name comes from Mount Gabilan in San Luis Obispo County, where they were first identified.

13. San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander

Next on the list of types of salamanders in California is the San Gabriel Mountains slender salamander (Batrachoseps gabrieli).

It lives at an elevation range between 700 and 1,800 meters. As for its habitat, it is commonly found in lava flows within forested areas. 

Moreso, to survive, it must live in moist environments with large amounts of vegetation. They are most active when there has been recent precipitation. That is, during dry weather, they remain under leaves or inside their shelters.

Also, during times of drought, females can be found with egg masses on their backs. And which weigh an average of 10% more than non-reproductive females.

14. Hell Hollow Slender Salamander

These tiny salamanders are called slender salamanders because they are thinner than other types of salamanders in California.

The Hell Hollow Slender Salamander is endemic to central California, where it can be found near Silver Lake, a tributary of Putah Creek. 

Although, this is an extremely small species, with adults reaching less than 5 inches. It looks like a typical caudate but has three toes on its front feet rather than four. It also has six toes on its back feet instead of five. 

However, these features allow it to easily maneuver around water plants where it spends most of its time.

This species reproduces once per year and lays eggs under rocks. Then, which remain dormant until spring or early summer, when high water levels cause them to hatch.

15. Inyo Mountains Salamander

The Inyo Mountains salamander is one of about 100 species worldwide that display parental care. It takes care of its young for up to two years after they hatch. It has unique characteristics that make it stand out from other types of salamanders in California. 

First, it’s an extremely large salamander. It can be up to 6 inches long. Second, unlike most other salamanders, it has both lungs and gills while growing inside its mother’s body.

While developing, it uses its gills like normal until metamorphosis; at that point. That is, instead of emerging with external gills like other salamander larvae, it develops lungs for breathing air.

16. Fairview Slender Salamander

The Fairview slender salamander is found mostly in Northern California, in areas like Shasta County. Also in Butte County, Plumas County, Tehama County, Lake County, and Humboldt County.

This salamander is a light to dark yellow color with dark mottling. 

Typically, they grow anywhere from 2.8 to 5.1 inches long. The larvae of Fairview slender salamanders are aquatic while they are young. But they will transform into terrestrial adults as they get older.

17. California Slender Salamander

These small, slender salamanders are generally brown or black in color. They have short toes with grooves between them, and they can grow up to seven inches long!

You’ll usually see these guys near streams and ponds, and they are one of the types of salamanders in California.

18. Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander

The slender salamander in the greenhorn mountains is one of the salamanders in California alone. This type of salamander’s most notable features includes its yellowish-brown coloration, long body, and prominent eyes. 

Also, it lives up to its name as it has unusually long hind legs, which enable it to leap a fair distance away from danger.

These creatures are often mistaken for lizards because they are mostly ground-dwellers with long bodies and short limbs. 

However, they have one distinctively salamander characteristic: lack of a tail! This feature is unique among all salamanders in North America. 

Moreso, the greenhorn mountains slender salamander is found only along mountain ranges that wind through parts of San Bernardino County.

Also, Riverside County, Inyo County, Kern County, and Mono County are also included.

19. Wandering Salamander

The wandering salamander, one of California’s most famous salamanders, is dark-brown to black with a yellow line down its back. It can grow up to 8 inches long, as their name suggests.

Also, they are good at traveling by walking on land. But they spend most of their lives in freshwater or damp environments. They like forested areas because it is an ideal habitats for them.

20. Arboreal Salamander

This breed is also known as a Pacific giant salamander, a name it gained because of its immense size. That is up to 17 inches, which is also one of the types of salamanders in California. 

Although arboreal salamanders live among trees or in trees, they are not nocturnal like most other forest animals.

Instead, they are very active during daytime hours. This particular species is found in forests throughout Western North America.

21. Santa Cruz black salamander

The Santa Cruz black salamander, also known as Plethodon jordani , is one of eight types of salamanders in California.

It’s a dark gray-brown color with light patches on its sides that create an hourglass shape. And which inspired its common name.

22. Black Salamander

The Black salamander is known as Ensatina eschscholtzii, named after Carl von Eschscholtz. It’s also called The California slender salamander or The Sierra Nevada Mountain salamander.

This is a small black salamander subspecies found on mountain ranges surrounding northern and southern coasts.

23. Clouded Salamander

The clouded salamander is a small species, with adults reaching an average length of just 2.5 to 4.0 inches (6.3 to 10 cm).

They are characterized by their blue-grey skin with a pale yellow venter (underside). And by their tiny dark eyes, both traits that help them blend into their surroundings when hiding from predators. 

However, these salamanders also feature a prominent gular fold, a mucous membrane under their chin. And gives them a bit of an extra neck when retracted. 

Moreso, it can be hard to distinguish males from females at first glance. But generally, only male clouded salamanders have red patches on either side of their gular fold. That is when they are fully developed.

24. Coastal Giant Salamander

Found on forest floors, rocky outcrops, and boulder fields from Mendocino County to Sonoma County. Coastal giant salamanders are one of the largest types of salamanders in California, reaching lengths of 20–30 inches. 

They are also known as arboreal salamanders or banana slugs. Coastal giants are nocturnal predators that eat a variety of small invertebrates, such as insects and snails.

25. California Giant Salamander

One of the types of salamanders in California that are known for their ability to run along water sources. If you’ve seen a lump moving across a creek, there’s a good chance it was a giant salamander.

The giant salamander can be as long as 16 inches, with larvae growing up to two feet in length. 

However, these fascinating creatures have been around since prehistoric times. And were once used as bait by Native Americans, who then boiled them. 

Moreso, you won’t want to eat these guys, either. They are one of only three types of amphibians that can secrete toxins through their skin! 

And despite these features, they remain on many endangered species lists, which makes it illegal to remove them from their natural habitats without an appropriate license.

26. Northwestern Salamander

The Northwestern salamander, also known as Ambystoma gracile, is one of only two types of amphibians native to California. It has adapted to many different habitats, from mountain forests to small ponds.

This salamander varies greatly in color from browns, greens, and grays, while some may have dark spots on their back.

27. Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander

The Santa Cruz long-toed salamander is mostly black with three yellow diagonal stripes from its eyes down to its mouth. These salamanders are medium-sized, but adults grow to about 6 inches in length. 

Additionally, they have slender bodies and small feet for their size, which helps them move around faster on land than other salamanders can. Their lifespan tends to be long, reaching up to 21 years old! 

The Santa Cruz long-toed salamander’s habitat is also found near small water sources such as brooks, creeks, or springs.

If it dries out completely, it will go dormant until conditions become suitable again. Even surviving through freezing temperatures if necessary!

28. California Tiger Salamander

The tiger salamanders (Ambystoma californiense) are one of types of salamanders in California. It’s usually brown or black with dark spots but can also be blueish-green or red.

They are about 8 inches long and often found near rivers, ponds, lakes, or even toilets! 

Moreover, the tiger salamander eats small insects like ants. Since they’re cold-blooded, they breathe through their skin. This makes them sensitive to chemicals disrupting their skin’s breathing ability.

Also, they’re prone to deadly diseases like chytridiomycosis that are spread by water runoff from areas where pesticides were used.

Tiger salamanders are currently classified as endangered by both state and federal law.

29. Southern Long-toed Salamander

There are two subspecies: Ensatina eschscholtzii var. eschscholtzii and Ensatina eschscholtzii var. rangeli. The southern long-toed salamander is one of the rare types of salamanders in California alone, mostly west of San Francisco.

However, its range has recently expanded eastward (Elias et al.).

30. California Salamander

The California salamander ( Taricha torosa ) is also known as Spotted Newt, Northwestern Newt or Red Eft. It is a type of newt found from British Columbia to Baja California.

They live underground for most of their lives, only coming above ground during wet weather.

31. Red-bellied Salamander

The red-bellied salamander is one of the species native to California. Red bellies, which are typically rusty-red with a pale belly, live throughout northern California from sea level to over 3,000 feet elevation. 

Moreso, they have small heads and short legs. Making them one of only a few salamander species that can’t walk on their hind legs.

32. Kern Plateau Salamander

The Kern Plateau Slender Salamander has a tan or brown stripe running down its body from head to tail. It’s oval-shaped, with a snout that tapers at both ends.

This salamander lives on rocky slopes and is found in areas like canyons, foothills, and mountain valleys. 

While it prefers cool temperatures between 50 degrees F (10 C) and 70 degrees F (21 C), it can also be found in higher elevations between 6,000 feet (1,829 m) and 8,000 feet (2,438 m).

This salamander is active at night during spring through fall; during winter months, it hibernates underground for about four months.

33. Kern Canyon Salamander

The Kern Canyon slender salamander is found only along one 40-mile stretch of waterway, making it a rare species.

These salamanders live their entire lives underground with no eyes. But they do have very long tails, which they wrap around themselves when they sleep to keep warm.

34. Tehachapiu Slender Salamander

The Tehachapi Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus) is an endangered species found only in Kern County. The amphibian is one of four salamander species considered to be slender.

These salamanders are quite thin, with a long tail that tapers off at its end. 

However, the coloring of their skin can range from brown to black. But they also have white or yellowish stripes running down their bodies.

35. Yellow Blotched Ensatina

The yellow-blotched Ensatina is a medium-sized salamander that ranges from Orange County to Humboldt County among the types of salamanders in California. This species was once considered to be its genus. 

But it is now believed that it is simply a color morph of its close relative, the Redback Ensatina. As with all Ensatinas, they are incredibly variable in their appearance.

36. Monterey Ensatina Salamander

The Monterey Ensatina is a fairly small salamander species, measuring around four to six inches from head to tail.

Like many other types of salamanders in California. It can be identified by its distinct color pattern, with spots lining both sides of its body. 

Moreso, unlike most salamanders that are active during nighttime hours when they hunt for prey. Ensatinas are mostly active during daylight hours.

Likely because their greenish-grey skin provides camouflage when they’re sitting on forest floors during daytime hours.

37. Large Scotched Ensatina

The Large-blotched Ensatina is one of two subspecies that can be found throughout many areas within California.

The subspecies have a speckled appearance with splotches that cover its body, making it appear spotted rather than striped. 

Moreso, this makes it easier for predators to miss when hunting due to its camouflage. Ensatinas are often confused with another species called the small spotted Ensatina, but they are quite different.

38. Painted Ensatina Salamander

This is one of the types of salamanders in California. The Painted Ensatina can be found from San Luis Obispo all the way down to Los Angeles County.

Unlike other salamander species that have been known to migrate under their own power. 

Moreover, Ensatinas do not move once they have taken up residence. They are also much more intolerant to changes in water quality. And are more likely to die if they find themselves out of their ideal conditions.

39. Sierra Nevada Salamander

The Sierra Nevada Ensatina, is found only in central California. It is a small salamander that can be tan to dark brown with red or orange markings on its back. 

Although, it prefers granite outcroppings with mossy areas near streams. The Sierra Nevada Ensatina is one of four subspecies of Ensatina salamanders. 

40. Yellow-eyed Ensatina Salamander

The Ensatina eschscholtzii, also known as yellow-eyed Ensatina, is a salamander species in genus Ensatina. It is native to western North America. 

Moreso, four subspecies are currently recognized; E. e. oregonensis is endemic to Oregon. Also, E. e. eschscholtzii, is found from British Columbia through Washington, Oregon, and California. And E. e. klauberi, which occurs in northern California; and E.

Basically, the yellow-eyed Ensatina’s back is black with blue or green-tipped scales, which give it a speckled appearance. The most obvious identifying feature is its large eyes, which are orange with black pupils. 

However, the salamander’s underside is lighter than its back and often has yellow blotches. Yellow-eyed Ensatinas are 12 to 15 centimeters long and live in central California.

41. Limestone Salamander

The limestone salamander is a rare and beautiful amphibian found at several protected sites throughout California, including Sequoia National Forest, Yosemite National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and Point Reyes. 

However, they prefer to live in rocky areas and limestone caves. Or under large rocks along streams where they feed on small insects and invertebrates. Like all amphibians, they are sensitive to temperature changes.

42. Mount lyell Salamander

The Mount Lyell salamander is one of the types of salamanders in California alone, specifically in Yosemite National Park.

These amphibians are known to inhabit elevations between 5,000 feet and 10,500 feet. There are approximately 50 of these salamanders that inhabit four different sites. 

Moreso, the adult salamander, reaches an average length of 7 inches with a height of 3 inches. Although they typically live on land, they prefer being near water sources because they will breed there.

43. Shasha Salamander

When you think about salamanders, most people think about slimy, wet amphibians with long tails.

However, not all salamanders fit that mold. Some types of salamanders in California can be as colorful as a rainbow! 

Therefore, take the Shasta salamander, for example. It is green or gray with red speckles on its back. Its skin is smooth, too, not slimy like you’d expect from an amphibian living in the water.

44. Scott Bar Salamander

This is a large (eight inches) salamander that comes in yellow, brown, or dark gray. It has a black line that runs from its nostril to just under its jaw. It has smooth skin with two grooves on either side of it.

Also, unlike most salamanders, Scott Bar can regenerate some limbs if they are lost. It does well in captivity but prefers clean but heavily oxygenated water.

45. Del Norte Salamander

The Del Norte salamander is found in Del Norte County, along with a small section of Southern Oregon. A fairly large species, it averages 6 inches long as an adult. 

Moreover, an arboreal species prefers cool, damp coniferous forests rich with mosses and ferns. This makes them easy to spot during their breeding season when they gather together to mate.

Conclusion

Salamanders are native to California, and there are many species that can be found in the wild. Salamanders are amphibians and can be distinguished from other amphibians by their long, slender bodies and tails. 

Actually, the unique feature of the salamander is its ability to breathe through its skin because it lacks lungs. This allows it to live in damp environments that would drown other amphibians with limited oxygen supply. 

Also, some types of salamanders in California have lungs. And which allows them to live above the water surface and on land as well as in water.

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