17 Types of Salamanders in Oregon

Types of Salamanders in Oregon
Photo by Andy Køgl

There are many different types of salamanders in Oregon. Plus, Oregon is recorded to have some of the most beautiful salamanders in the world, with 16 different species calling this state home.

However, most people think of the giant Pacific or common tiger salamanders when they think of amphibians.

But also, the stunningly patterned Cascade and tailed Ensatina are part of this impressive group.

If you’re looking to see some of these amazing creatures in person, here are stunning types of salamanders in Oregon that you didn’t know existed!

1. California Slender Salamander

To begin with, we have the California slender salamander, Batrachoseps attenuatus; it is a species of salamander in the family Plethodontidae.

More so, it is the first of the different types of salamander in Oregon that we will be discussing. It is endemic to California, where it occurs from Napa County to Monterey County. 

However, this species was formerly placed in the genus Batrachoseps but has recently been shown by genetic studies not to be closely related to that genus.

The slender salamander generally lives under rocks and logs. Though it sometimes burrows underground and may climb into trees on rainy days. 

Primarily, it feeds on slugs but will also eat spiders and other invertebrates. Its defense against predators is an unsightly display of gill covers and tail rattling. This is followed by a drop-off into a nearby stream or pool of water. 

Finally, the California slender salamander can tolerate salt better than most amphibians and occasionally ascends up coastal streams to forage for food in tidal pools. 

2. Oregon Slender Salamander

The slender salamander is only found along one creek. While they do have webbed feet, they aren’t very good at swimming.

Instead, these salamanders climb trees and may jump from tree to tree. This is the second to be discussed on the list of the types of salamanders in Oregon.

Also, the slender salamanders don’t make any permanent homes; instead, these salamanders move from one spot to another.

Like other amphibians, when it gets too cold for them to survive outside of water, they burrow underground, where it remains much warmer.

The Oregon slender salamander is a lungless salamander species, relying on its skin and gills to breathe underwater. 

Plus, these salamanders are not poisonous or venomous and rely on their small size (about 2 inches) as well as their camouflage skills to avoid predators.

The Oregon slender salamander is listed as critically imperiled by NatureServe. This means that it has experienced a drastic population decline over time, with less than 5% of its original range remaining intact today.

3. Klamath Black Salamander

Quite different from other types of salamanders in Oregon, the Klamath black salamander is a type of aquatic salamander.

It can grow as long as 14 inches long and is found exclusively within 1 to 6 feet of water. A nocturnal creature, it spends much of its time beneath rocks and logs. 

Proceeding the Klamath black salamander requires clean, flowing water with a steady supply of mosses, algae, and aquatic plants to survive.

Though widely distributed throughout its range, habitat destruction from logging and agriculture has threatened many populations with extirpation (local extinction).

The species was listed as threatened under both federal law and state law in 1998 due to concerns about habitat loss.

If it goes extinct, there will not be any other type of salamander found anywhere else outside California’s coastal redwood forests.

4. Clouded Salamander

There are a number of different types of salamander in Oregon, but many people never think about seeing one.

Clouded salamanders, native to Southeast Asia, are incredibly unique and can even grow as large as a small cat! These salamanders are easy to see since they’re nocturnal.

Plus, they live inside forests or underground tunnels and dig out holes that allow sunlight through to keep their skin moist.

Clouded salamanders are well-known for their ability to change color from dark browns and grays to yellows and oranges, depending on their mood or surroundings.

In addition, they’re also known for having some of the best vision among amphibians which allows them to hunt down prey using their excellent night vision.

5. Ensatina

The Ensatina salamanders ( Ensatina eschscholtzii) are a species of salamanders that live from southern British Columbia and extreme northwestern California to southernmost Oregon and northern Baja California.

Some have been found as far east as Reno, Nevada. They live underground in moist environments for most of their lives, emerging only when it rains or during the breeding season. 

Despite their name, they are not lizards but salamanders. The name lizard is a misnomer since they are called salamanders because they appear similar to amphibians called lizards.

This is an example of convergent evolution – many unrelated organisms develop similar characteristics as a result of adapting to similar environmental conditions.

In spite of that, they are still on the list of the types of salamanders in Oregon.

6. Siskiyou Mountains Salamander

One of the types of salamander in Oregon is the Siskiyou Mountains salamander. It is a small species of terrestrial lungless salamander found only in a very limited area of Southwestern Oregon.

It has an average adult length of 3-5 centimeters but can grow up to 7 centimeters with tails included. The Siskiyou Mountain salamanders are dark grey or black with light patches on their body and head, including two large yellow spots on their back. 

Primarily, they are nocturnal; which means they spend most of their time underground during daylight hours. This is due to the fact that they do not have eyelids and may be prone to dehydration if out for too long.

This salamander retreats deep within rocky crevices that remain cool and moist during the day and comes out at night when it’s warmer outside. 

Then, the Siskiyou Mountain salamander’s diet consists mainly of millipedes, centipedes, spiders, beetles, mites, and snails.

In order to eat these prey items, it uses its tongue to catch them off rocks or tree bark above ground level where it lives.

7. Del Norte Salamander

When people think of salamanders, most conjure up images of slender amphibians with elongated bodies and large, round heads. While some species do indeed possess these traits, others look much different.

Of the types of salamanders in Oregon, the Del Norte salamander looks a bit more like an arthropod than it does a conventional amphibian. 

In fact, its elongated body gives it quite a resemblance to a small lobster. It is also bright red with yellowish legs and toes.

Considering there are only five known populations in existence, being bright red makes it pretty hard to mistake for another species! 

Del Norte salamanders live in older redwood or Douglas-fir forests that have been logged at least once in their history. They can be found under rocks and logs as well as inside rotting stumps.

Unfortunately, their habitat is rapidly disappearing due to logging practices that continue today.

8. Western Red-backed Salamander

This unique amphibian is one of the several types of salamander in Oregon’s borders. It gets its name from a distinctive, red-bordered black marking on its back.

Like most salamanders, it feeds on small invertebrates and can live for up to 20 years. 

To keep clean, Western Red-backed salamanders secrete a milky fluid that repels dirt and inhibits algae growth.

They thrive in streams, rivers, and secluded forest ponds but can also survive droughts by burrowing deep into mud banks or logs.

During rainy seasons, they travel long distances between water sources to find food. During extreme cold, hot or dry weather, they enter a state of torpor until conditions improve. 

However, the western red-backed salamander has no natural predators besides humans. In Oregon, it is protected under state law as well as listed as endangered under federal law.

Salamanders are some of Earth’s oldest creatures: their lineage extends all the way back to before dinosaurs roamed our planet.

While there are over 2,400 known species of salamander around today, new ones are discovered every year—and many more remain undiscovered by humans!

9. Larch Mountain Salamander

The larch mountain salamander is a species of lungless salamander that occurs only on Larch Mountain near Estacada, Clackamas County, Oregon.

The species was first discovered in 1999 during surveys to assess populations of Columbia spotted frogs and chisel-toothed salamanders along Larch Mountain (Curry et al. 2000). It was described as a new species in 2004 (Bury and Whelan 2004).

Although formally classified as endangered under federal law since 2007, there are no formal plans for recovery or management beyond ongoing surveys by researchers from Portland State University (Boelman 2010; Bury et al.).

Larch Mountain salamanders prefer slopes that have large amounts of fine-grained, humus-rich soils, and tend to avoid areas with coarse-textured soils. They are found at elevations between 1,100 and 1,600 m (3,600 and 5,200 ft) above sea level. 

The species is a member of a group known as Plethodontidae, or lungless salamanders which breathe through their skin.

Like most types of salamanders in Oregon, they spend most of their lives burrowed underground only emerging during periods when it rains heavily.

10. Dunn’s Salamander

The Dunn’s salamander (Plethodon dunni) is a species of woodland salamander found in northwestern Washington and southwestern British Columbia, Canada.

It is moderately sized, reaching lengths of 19–29 cm. It has been listed as threatened by COSEWIC since 2002 when its range was estimated at 3200km2 (1275sqmi).

Unfortunately, this species has suffered dramatic declines during periods of drought. In 1972, it disappeared from large portions of its range; subsequent studies have suggested that most of these populations have not recovered.

11. Rough-skinned Newt

Looking at the types of salamanders in Oregon, the rough-skinned newt is a great salamander species to start with if you’re just getting into keeping salamanders.

They thrive in captivity, and there are multiple subspecies available, so it’s easy to find one that will fit into your life and lifestyle.

One reason they make a good beginner salamander is their calm demeanor. These little guys don’t move as quickly as other species and rarely try to escape from their vivarium. 

Also, they like to burrow, which gives them something constructive to do while you aren’t watching! More experienced keepers who have tried more difficult species tend to go back and get a newt; they’re simple but satisfying pets!

12. Cascade Torrent Salamander

The Cascade torrent salamander can be found throughout much of western Oregon, including at its namesake waterfalls.

It is a close relative of Rhyacotriton and Rhyacotritonidae (Torrent newts), and often looks like it’s been dipped in gold dust. It has three yellow stripes along its body, which are easy to spot against dark rocks. 

Additionally, it can grow up to 4 inches long. A close relative lives with similar markings—and an almost identical color scheme—in Japan. 

But it’s not yet been formally named or identified as an individual species. Without the Cascade torrent salamander, the list of the types of salamander in Oregon is not quite complete.

13. Southern Torrent Salamander

Still on the list of the types of salamander in Oregon, there we have the southern torrent salamander. It Is sometimes referred to as a living fossil due to how it closely resembles prehistoric species of salamanders.

It’s found throughout southern Oregon and northern California, with its conservation status listed as endangered. 

Their population has been declining ever since human activities invaded their habitat. As a result, do your part and ensure they stay around by not littering or destroying their natural environments.

Plus, they’re easy to distinguish from other species. Thanks to their light-colored stripe that runs from behind each eye down onto their body, along with a small bump near their mouth that distinguishes them from others in their genus.

14. Columbia Torrent Salamander

The Columbia torrent salamander (Rhyacotriton kezeri) is a species of salamander in Rhyacotritonidae. They are found only in mountain streams of Douglas and Grant Counties, Oregon. Adults are typically 11 cm long from snout to vent, with females being larger than males. 

On one hand, the dorsal surface is dark gray-brown with black flecks or blotches and irregular white markings.

And on the other hand, the underside is white or cream with dark spotting. The long toes have fringes of webbing between them; the tail is tapering and tapers sharply at its tip. 

Also on the list of the types of salamander in Oregon, there are some distinctive populations that have been separated into subspecies: R. kezeri archeri, R. k exiguus, and R.

15. Coastal Giant Salamander

The Coastal giant salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus) is not left off the list of types of salamander in Oregon.

It is native to western North America, particularly mountainous regions of coastal northern California and southern Oregon. 

This species has a wide range spanning from Kodiak Island, Alaska, down to San Luis Obispo County, California.

And, in fact,  including most areas of coastal Northern California and southern Oregon. The range extends inland as far as 7-8 km up suitable mountain streams or springs.

16. Cope’s Giant Salamander

These giant salamanders can be found under logs and rocks near rivers, creeks, and lakes throughout Washington. Some Cope is as large as 2 feet long!

These salamanders have yellowish skin with dark blotches over their back, sides, and legs. Their bellies are white to light pink colored.

Also, these creatures eat small fish, worms, and other insects they find on land. Adults hibernate during winter months, buried deep underground until springtime, when they emerge to mate.

At that time of year, similar to other types of salamanders in Oregon, females lay eggs under rocks along river banks. The eggs hatch into larvae called ‘tadpoles’ a few weeks later.

17. Long-toed Salamander

The long-toed salamander is a relatively small member of its species, but despite their size, they are ferocious predators.

They are usually found near bodies of water and have been known to steal fish right out of anglers’ reels. 

Meanwhile, the females lay their eggs on land and then return to their watery homes, leaving it up to nature how many larvae actually survive.

Sadly, humans are an ever-present threat, as well, to this particular species on the list of types of salamander in Oregon.

18. Northwestern Salamander

The Northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile) can be found hiding under logs, rocks, and leaves. These salamanders are nocturnal, but they will occasionally come out during daylight hours to warm up.

The females have a pair of dorsal tubercles on their backs. 

Usually, the males have blue or dark gray coloration with black blotching on their sides and tails. If you are lucky enough to find one, make sure you leave it alone because they are listed as vulnerable by ODFW.

19. Blotched Tiger Salamander

To wrap up our list of the different types of salamanders in Oregon are Tiger salamanders. Like most salamanders, they are ambush predators that eat invertebrates.

They spend a lot of time motionless, waiting for prey to come by, and then lunge out to capture and swallow it whole. 

Certainly, Tiger salamanders are nocturnal so they’re also perfectly camouflaged by day. Once you see one, you’ll never look at mossy logs in the same way again.

Although these beautiful creatures can be found throughout North America, few people know about them or what an important role they play as predators.

In order to protect these amazing animals and their habitats from environmental threats, we must work together to increase public awareness about them!

Conclusion

Who knew that salamanders were so diverse and unique? Most people don’t even realize that Oregon has its very own species of salamander! 

On the just concluded list above, you found different stunning types of salamanders in Oregon. Most of them you may have heard of, but some are more unusual than others. 

Either way, we suggest you take a closer look at these animals and admire their stunning beauty when next you sight them! Till then!

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