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Field Herping: Western Redback Salamander

April 14, 2015

I had the fortune recently to go out and do a little bit of field herping. Originally, it was supposed to be strictly a plant collecting/identifying trip. As luck would have it, I happened to come across quite a few salamanders while I was sloshing through the rain and wet plants.

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Western Redback Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum)

The Western Redback Salamander is common throughout western Washington state, and the wet spring weather we’ve been having has apparently been bringing them out of hiding. They are very site specific, and have home ranges that are very small. They usually stay with a 3 square meter area! I guess a 3 inch lungless salamander doesn’t do a lot of exploring. The females deposit their eggs around this time of year, and young salamanders appear in the fall.

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The area that these redbacks were hanging out was a very wet hillside, basically a talus slope covered in a thick layer of moss. There was enough water seeping out of the rocks to form a nice sized creek at the base of the slope. As soon as I started poking through the first few sword ferns, I found the first redback. Another redback was found in a footprint that I had just made! They must have been pretty active!

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It looks like there are 15 costal grooves. What do you think?

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You can see the silver flecks of color in this redback's belly. Very faint yellow spots are also visible if you look carefully.

You can’t help but smile when you see these neat little salamanders! They are so docile, and they always look like they are smiling.

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