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Ensatina Ensatina eschscholtzii


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Ensatina, Oregon subspecies
credit: Eugene Van der Pijil

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Family: Plethodontidae, Lungless Salamanders view all from this family

Description Only salamander with a constricted tail and 5 toes on hind feet. It has an amazing range of colors and patterns, from brown to reddish brown to black with cream, orange or yellow sports across its body. Base of limbs lighter in color than tips. Underside is whitish or flesh colored. Males have longer thinner tails whereas females have shorter more stout tails.

Dimensions Length: 3-5 7/8".

Subspecies In Monterey they are reddish-brown above, whitish below with black eyes. In coastal s. California into nw. Baja California they are black above with cream or yellow blotches & a large blotch behind each eye. The interior mountains of Kern County, California they are black above with cream or orange blotches and crossbars, U-shaped blotch behind eyes. The interior mountains of extreme sc. California they are a plain brown or blackish color above, whitish or yellowish below, with fine black dots. In sw. British Columbia south through w. Washington, Oregon and into nw. California they are brown above, mottled with black, yellow and orange, yellow-orange underside, peppered with black dots. In coastal sw. Oregon and nw. California they are generally brown above with orange spots. Through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, e. of the Great Valley, California they are a brownish orange above, bellies are orange and the eyes have a yellow patch.

Breeding Occurs in late spring to early summer. Following an elaborate series of movements by both male and females the eggs are laid in grape like clusters in underground cavities guarded by the female. Each cluster has around 12-25 eggs. They reach sexual maturiy from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years.

Habitat Usually occur in woodlands in California coastal mountains. Forests in northwestern areas. Redwood forest, chaparral, and coast live oak and black walnut woodlands along the coast. Also found among rotting wood or underneath rocks and other forms of cover.

Range This type of Salamander occurs from Vancouver Island and the south western British Columbia mainland. West of the Cascade-Sierra Nevada crest, to the Sierra San Pedro M·rtir in northern Baja California and also in Mexico. They are not generally found in the central valley of California.

Discussion Remains active until the end of May or sometimes through June in northerly or high locations. Nocturnal species. The tail releases a milky poison which many predators find repulsive. When the tail is seized at the base, it becomes automized (severs from the body allowing the Salamander to escape). 20% of adults have regenerated tails. It retreats into animal burrows and crevices among roots and logs in cold & dry weather. Assumes a stiff-legged, sway-backed stance, with tail elevated and arched if it feels threatened. Feeds on small terrestrial arthropods which it consumes through the use of its projectile tongue.