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Salamanders, Pacific Northwest

The Northwestern Salamander is a common sight in the Pacific Northwest
Northwestern Salamander, Photo By Robert Logan

The Pacific Northwest has 8 species of Salamanders and one newt. The salamanders are harmless, but the rough skinned newt can be deadly. After handling the rough skin newt, it is advisable to wash your hands.

They all tend to look like lizards, but they are members of their own distinct group. There are differences to be seen,  lizards usually have external ears and clawed toes, salamanders lack such features.

A salamander is an amphibian in the order Caudata. World wide, this order encompasses hundreds of individual species and several large groupings.

Like other amphibians, they prefer damp, moist places such as swamps, ponds and waterways. Salamanders range widely in size and coloration, but all of them have smooth, porous skins which may feel damp to the touch.

The Western Red Back Salamander is a very common salamander here in the Pacific Northwest
Western Red Back Salamander, Photo By Bud Logan

They start out life as an aquatic larva hatched from an egg. The larvae have gills so that they can breathe underwater until they develop into adults with lungs.

Depending on the species, they may live a primarily aquatic life, or it may range far from water. As a general rule, they will avoid direct light, and many of them are nocturnal as a result.

These animals do not thrive well in dry conditions so most species need to keep their skins moist to promote general health and gas exchange. Because their skins are highly porous, salamanders are susceptible to environmental toxins and rough handling, best to observe but not touch these beautiful little creatures.

Rough Skinned Newt, Photo By Robert Logan
Rough Skinned Newt, Photo By Robert Logan

They can also carry bacteria that can be quite toxic. So it is a good idea to wash your hands after dealing with salamanders and newts. The newt is one to avoid even handling, they are really quite poisonous.

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