Ensatina Salamander

October 23, 2015
Heidi Rockney and Karen Wu
Orange and brown Ensatina salamander

Photo: Heidi Rockney

Ensatina Salamander

Photo: Heidi Rockney

Ensatina Salamander sitting on the palm of a hand

Photo: Heidi Rockney

Ensatina Salamander

Photo: Heidi Rockney

Name: Ensatina Salamander (Ensatina eschscholtzii)
Order: Salamanders (Caudata)
Family: Lungless Salamanders (Plethodontidae)

What they look like

  • 3.8-8cm
  • They have smooth brown or black skin on their backs and yellow or white on their underside with tiny flecks of black.
  • There is a lot of variety in coloration, but almost all have orange or yellow coloring on the tops of their legs. 
  • Have a swollen tail that is confined at its base. 

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live.
  • In Washington State they are found west of the Cascade Mountains to the coast.
  • Prefer forested areas, but can be found in clearings and grasslands.
  • Stay under rotting logs, but can wander out on wet nights and during breeding season.
  • They do not need a permanent water source.


  • Breeding season is spring and fall, although at higher elevations breeding can happen in the summer.
  • Eggs are laid under rotting logs and protected by the female.
  • When eggs hatch, small mini-salamanders emerge, skipping the normal aquatic larvae stage. 

Cool Biology Facts

  • The males of this species have a swollen upper lip and a longer, skinnier tale than the females.
  • If the weather gets too hot or too cold, they will retreat into underground burrows.
  • When threatened, will ooze a whitish toxic secretion from their tail and often slash their tails at whatever threatened them.
Distribution Map

Map of Ensatina distribution in Washington state. Learn more on the NatureMapping Foundation website.

Explore more of the Amphibians & Reptiles of Washington or check out All About Amphibians.

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