Salamanders are found throughout Ohio in low-lying moist woodlands near swamps, ponds, and creeks. Because of their mysterious nature and their habit of tunneling underground, they are seldom seen except in early spring, when they migrate in large numbers to breeding ponds. Being active only at night makes them one of Ohio’s hidden treasures!
Mostly all salamanders rely on vernal pools – shallow wetland areas - for breeding and the nearby forested habitat for the rest of their adult life. The sight of a salamander is a sure sign of clean water nearby because salamanders breathe through their skin to survive and are very vulnerable to toxins placed into the environment and their water. As these areas are becoming more and more polluted many of the salamander populations are becoming endangered!
One of the rarest salamanders to be seen in Ohio is the blue-spotted salamander. They get their name from the blue colored spots or blotches along the sides of their bodies. The color of the rest of their body ranges from a dark grey to a grayish black in color, and they measure up to 5 ½ inches in length. The blue-spotted salamander is endangered and can be found hiding under rotting logs in wet prairies and damp forested areas, along a small area of southeastern Ohio.
The cave salamander is one of the prettiest salamander species native to Ohio. Their long slender red body is speckled with black dots, and can measure up to 8 inches in length.
The cave salamander is also endangered. It relies heavily on sources of groundwater and can be found in and around caves, springs and streams in a small part of southwestern Ohio.
The green salamander is another endangered salamander, that gets its name from its distinct green and black marbled skin pattern. They have squared toe tips, a flattened body, and long legs. This salamander can be found in a small portion of southeastern Ohio, living along and within limestone and sandstone rock formations, coming out only at night to eat.
The strangest looking and largest salamander native to Ohio is the Hellbender. In spite of its name the hellbender is completely harmless! The body of a hellbender has fleshy folds of skin running down both sides of its flattened brownish-green body, with a flattened head with small eyes and gill slits. They are estimated to live to be 25-30 years old and can reach up to 20 inches in length! Hellbenders are aquatic amphibians, living entirely under water. They can be found under large rocks in swift moving rocky streams and rivers throughout small portions of Ohio and are an endangered species.
The most common salamanders found in Ohio are the dusky salamander, the marbled salamander, and the spotted salamander. Other salamanders resident to Ohio are the eastern tiger salamander, the four-toed salamander, the midland mud salamander, the northern two-lined salamander, the northern red salamander, the northern slimy salamander, the mountain dusky salamander, the ravine salamander, the red back salamander, and the small-mouth salamander.
To see a salamander for yourself this spring go outside and visit your local Ohio state park and record what you spy in your very own salamander journal!
Please remember to leave any salamander you find where they belong in their native habitat.