As their name suggests, these are the largest terrestrial amphibians in North America, with some adult specimens reaching up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length. The animal’s body is brown or black, often with darker mottling along the head and back which allows it to blend into its surroundings. They have thick bodies and limbs with external, feather-like gills. During its larval stage, the salamander lives entirely in the water. When it later metamorphoses into an adult, it can live in either the water or on land.
These salamanders are opportunistic predators, lurking motionless in one area and then ambushing their prey. They eat a variety of aquatic invertebrates, reptiles, rodents and fish. If provoked, the salamander can deliver a painful bite or will whip at a predator with its heavy tail.
Interestingly, these are only one of a handful of salamanders which produce a sound – which is similar to a dog’s bark.
In Oregon, the salamanders reside in cold water streams in both the Cascade Mountains and Coast Mountain Range. They’re often difficult to find in the wild as they stay in the water most of the time, clinging to the bottom of logs or stones.
Common.Photo credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Game.