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Amphibians of Washington

Western Red-backed salamander 
(Plethodon vehiculum)


What they look like

  • 4-10cm
  • Are black with back strip that is usually red or tannish that goes all the way to the end of the tail with very defined, even edges.
  • Sides are dark with speckles of white.
  • Underside is dark with flecks of white, orange or yellow.

Where they live

  • In Washington State are found west of the Cascades mountains
  • Prefer to be under rotting logs or rocks near small streams or springs in damp mountain forests
  • They are found up to 1250 feet in elevation (higher elevation than any other species in this family) on rocky and steep mountain slopes.
  • Can be found in drier locations when other species of salamanders are present.


  • Breeding season is November to March.
  • Eggs are most likely laid in underground burrows or under rocks or logs and protected by the female, although there have been a few circumstance when the male has been found protecting eggs
  • Females only lay eggs every other year.
  • Eggs hatch into tiny salamanders, skipping the aquatic larval stage.

Cool Biology Facts

  • The name vehiculum comes from the word ‘vehicle’ and is a reference to the fact that the male actually carries the female while she clings to his tail during courtship.
  • They use chemical cues to choose mates during breeding.
  • Western-red backed salamanders do not defend their territories.


Distribution Map


There are currently no major threats.