Northern red salamanders live in and around freshwater streams, often hiding near logs, bark, rocks and moss. (Brian Gratwicke/Flickr)
The northern red salamander is a small, reddish amphibian with black, irregularly shaped spots covering its back. It lives in cool freshwater streams and adjacent wooded areas throughout most of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Red or reddish-orange body
Rounded, irregularly shaped black spots scattered across the back
Smooth, scale-less skin
Four toes on the front limbs and five toes on the hind limbs
Grows 4-7 inches long
Lives in and around clear, cool streams, creeks and springs
Typically found on land in summer, hiding under rocks, logs, bark and moss in wooded areas
Also burrows under sediment or leaf litter at the bottom of streams, particularly in winter
Lives throughout most of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, from southern New York to Virginia
In the Blue Ridge Mountains, a smaller, similarly colored subspecies (the Blue Ridge red salamander) is more dominant
Eats worms, insects and spiders
Hunts for prey during and after rain storms, especially at night
Skunks, raccoons and woodland birds prey upon red salamanders
Reproduction and Life Cycle:
Courtship between males and females begins in spring and continues through autumn
Around October, females lay an average of 70 eggs in hidden areas in and around streams. The eggs attach to the underside of rocks by a jelly-like stalk.
Eggs hatch in early winter. Young salamanders remain in a larval stage for 2-3 years, living in small, rocky streams and cool, still ponds.
Can live up to 20 years
The largest northern red salamander ever discovered measured 7 1/8 inches long.
A salamander’s projectile tongue can extend and return to its mouth in just 11 milliseconds!
Salamanders are excellent indicators of stream health because they are very sensitive to stressors such as pollution, deforestation, stream erosion and mine drainage.