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Amphibians of Washington

Cope's giant salamander
(Dicamptodon copei)


What they look like

  • 2- 20cm
  • Larvae and adults in the aquatic form are brown, sometimes with patches of yellow or tan
  • They have short, bushy gills, and have many small white skin glands all over the body.
  • Their undersides are often blue-gray.
  • Only a few metamorphosed adults have ever been found

Where they live

  • Copes giant salamanders are only found in the Pacific Northwest. In Washington State they are found in the Olympic and the Cascade Mountains and Willapa Hills of southern Washington
  • Prefer clear, cold mountain streams in damp forests.
  • They spend most days under rocks in the streams, but move about openly on the stream bottom in the evenings.


  • Eggs are laid is spring and fall under rocks or logs in streams in hidden spots and are protected by the female.
  • Eggs are white and laid one at a time and attached to the wall of the nest site. Eggs can take up to 200 days before hatching.

Cool Biology Facts

  • Cope's giant salamanders usually mature and reproduce in the almost entirely in their aquatic form without metamorphosing into terrestrial adults. This is called paedomorphosis or neoteny
  • This happens because most individuals do not respond to the hormones that normally would trigger metamorphosis in other salamanders.
  • In lab studies, thyroid treatments have shown to trigger metamorphosis.


Distribution Map


Main threats include habitat destruction from  logging and habitat loss.