Cope's Giant Salamander

Photo: Dennis Paulson
Photo: Dennis Paulson

Dicamptodon copei

What they look like

  • Up to 20 cm (8 inches) total length
  • Only a few metamorphosed adults have ever been found
  • Larvae and neotenic adults are drab brown with yellowish-tan glandular patches on the back and sides
  • Larvae and neotenic adults have short bushy gills and a low, short dorsal fin
  • Metamorphosed adults are drab brown with hints of blue and a narrow head

All About Amphibians

Name: Cope's Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon copei)
Order: Salamanders (Caudata)
Family: Giant Salamanders (Dicamptodontidae)

Fast Facts

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live.
  • Cope's 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 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.


small brown salamander on bright green vegetation

Amphibians & Reptiles of Washington

Do you know where rattlesnakes live in our state? Or which salamander breathes through its skin? Explore the fascinating diversity of the 26 species of amphibians and 28 reptiles found in Washington state.