Pacific Giant Salamander

Photo: Heidi Rockney
Photo: Heidi Rockney

Dicamptodon tenebrosus

What they look like

  • The largest salamander in the Pacific Northwest and one of the largest terrestrial salamanders in the world.
  • Fully grown they can reach a length of up to 33 cm (13 inches).
  • Larvae and adults in the aquatic form are brown, have short gills.
  • Terrestrial adults are usually brown and black and marbled all over, with the underside a light brown to off-white.

All About Amphibians

Name: Pacific Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus)
Order: Salamanders (Caudata)
Family: Giant Salamanders (Dicamptodontidae)

Fast Facts

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live.
  • Coast Giant Salamanders are only found in the Pacific Northwest. In Washington State they are found in the Cascade Mountains, the Willapa Hills of southwestern Washington, Long Island
  • Prefer clear, cold mountain streams next to forests or in mountain lakes and ponds.
  • During the day they stay underground or under rocks in the streams, but come out in the evenings onto the stream bottom.
  • Some terrestrial forms will move out of the stream and stay in the forest undergrowth near water sources.


  • Eggs are laid one at a time under rocks and logs in slower moving parts of streams usually during May.
  • The female protects eggs.
  • Larvae take 18-24 months to go through metamorphosis.

Cool Biology Facts

  • Metamorphose into terrestrial adults, but sometimes mature and reproduce in the aquatic form. This is called paedomorphosis or neoteny.
  • Marbled pattern is usually the easiest way to identify them, although the larvae form are easily mixed up with the Cope’s Giant Salamander.


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.