Smooth, slippery and silent: State helps celebrate the Year of the Salamander

One of the surest signs of spring is the mass migration of spotted salamanders, which travel to their breeding pools with the season’s first warm rains.
One of the surest signs of spring is the mass migration of spotted salamanders, which travel to their breeding pools with the season’s first warm rains.

Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) has named 2014 as the Year of the Salamander to raise awareness for salamander conservation.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) Wildlife Division is participating in this effort by shining a spotlight on Connecticut’s 12 native salamander species throughout the year.

Other state and federal wildlife agencies, along with several conservation organizations, also are partnering with PARC to foster appreciation and understanding of salamanders.

The Wildlife Division and other conservation organizations will hold salamander events throughout the year, including a Salamander art contest for children. Stay up-to-date on Year of the Salamander events and activities by going to

Lizard or salamander?

Maybe you have found a salamander while raking leaves, or when turning over rocks and logs, or while exploring the woods as a child.

Many who come upon a salamander think they have found a lizard. At first glance, salamanders and lizards look alike — small animals with four legs, a tail, and a similar body shape. However, up close, salamanders and lizards are very different.

First of all, these two animals live in different habitats. Salamanders prefer cool, moist places, while lizards prefer dry, warmer places. A lizard’s body is covered with tough scales, while a salamander’s body is smooth and slippery. Most salamanders do not have claws on their feet, while lizards do.

Although lizards and salamanders look alike, they are not closely related. Lizards are reptiles and are more closely related to snakes and turtles. Salamanders are amphibians, the same as frogs and toads.

Why are Salamanders special?

All salamanders are carnivores. They eat insects, worms, small animals, and even other salamanders.

As opposed to the often noisy frogs and toads, salamanders are completely silent.

Salamanders have glands under their skin that produce mucus to keep the skin moist. Other glands make poisons that can be distasteful or harmful to predators.

Most salamanders lay eggs in water or in moist places. The eggs are laid in a mass, string, or individually. The larvae that hatch from the eggs look similar to tadpoles.

However, tadpoles have large round heads and the gills are not obvious, while larval salamanders have long, narrow heads and visible gills.

Where do salamanders live?

People rarely see most salamanders because, as adults, salamanders spend most of their time in forested areas, living under rocks and fallen logs or in underground burrows.

The best time of year to see these creatures is in spring when they move to wet areas to lay their eggs. These wet areas include ponds, ditches, marshes, meadows and vernal pools.

Threats to salamanders

The greatest threat faced by Connecticut’s salamanders is the loss of habitat through development, fragmentation, degradation by pollution (i.e., overuse of fertilizers and pesticides), and the invasion of non-native plants.

Several species of native salamanders are currently experiencing a long-term population decline, and four are on Connecticut’s list of Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species.

Many populations are localized and restricted to specific habitat types. Unfortunately, when these habitats are destroyed, the salamanders found there disappear too.

CT’s native salamander species

There are 12 native salamander species in the state:

— Blue-spotted salamander (Endangered)

— Common mudpuppy

— Four-toed salamander

— Jefferson salamander (Special Concern)

— Marbled salamander

— Northern dusky salamander

— Red-spotted newt

— Northern redback salamander

— Northern slimy salamander (Threatened)

— Northern spring salamander (Threatened)

— Northern two-lined salamander

— Spotted salamander

What Is PARC?

Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation is a partnership dedicated to the conservation of reptiles and amphibians and their habitats.

Members come from all walks of life and includes individuals from state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, museums, the pet trade industry, nature centers, zoos, energy industry, universities, herpetological organizations, research laboratories, forest industries, and environmental consultants.