Menu

Close

Salamanders

Identification

The photo gallery at the bottom of the page provides information for some of the salamanders found in Illinois. Additionally, the Prairie Research Institute’s Illinois Natural History Survey has an Identification Key to help people figure out what species of salamander they have found. If you don’t know what the species is, click on the text to work through the key. If you see a photo that looks like the species you saw, then you can click on the photo to get information about that particular species.

Click here to find out what species of reptiles and amphibians are found in your county.

Photo: William Wengelewski
Eastern Tiger Salamander
Eastern Tiger Salamander

Salamanders run across many hazardous in Illinois’ human-dominated landscape. They may be mauled by domestic pets, mishandled by curious children and adults, fall into window wells, become trapped in or around buildings, or find their way into crawl spaces and sump pump pits. If salamanders can’t find their way out, their moist skin will dry out and they will desiccate and die. Salamanders can also be crushed by vehicles while they are crossing roads, especially when moving to and from their breeding ponds.

Mole salamanders (genus Ambystoma), such as the Eastern tiger salamander, can be found beneath garden soil, in shallow burrows around building foundations, and under flower pots and planters. Adult salamanders of some species move into temporary and permanent ponds to breed and lay eggs. Aquatic larvae hatch, grow and eventually metamorphose into adult salamanders. The adult forms leave the pond and live a terrestrial existence above and below the soil.

Rescuing Salamanders

Salamanders are often encountered when they fall into window wells or make their way into sump pumps and cisterns. If a rescue is needed, salamanders can be covered gently with a moist cloth, grasped gently with the hand, and placed in a container. Alternatively, a dustpan or a stiff piece of cardboard can be slid gently under the animal in order to place the animal in a container. Salamanders can be rescued from window wells by placing some moist leaves in a small pail and tying the pail to a long string. The pail should be lowered into the window well and positioned to lie on its side. Once the salamander crawls into the pail and settles under the leaves, the pail can be raised up by pulling the string. Window well covers should be installed to prevent children or animals from accidentally falling into window wells.

As with frogs and toads, salamanders should not be moved from one area to another. If you are creating amphibian habitat on your property, allow what is there naturally to inhabit your new amphibian habitat.

If you have questions about reptiles or amphibians in Illinois, you can contact Scott Ballard, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Southern Region Endangered and Threatened Recovery Species Specialist/Herpetologist, at: Scott.Ballard@illinois.gov or 618-694-3398.