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Amphibians and Reptiles of the Dungeness Watershed

Amphibians: Skin smooth and moist with many glands; respiration by gills, lungs, skin, and pharyngeal region, separately or in combination; eggs with jelly-like membranous covering, but no shell. Six species of salamanders and newts and five species of toads and frogs may be found in the Dungeness watershed.  Some salamanders live their young lives in water and their adulthood on land; others, such as some lungless salamanders, are entirely terrestrial.  Newts start out in water, then spend several years on land before returning to the water to mature into aquatic adults.  Although some characteristics are blurred, “toads” typically have warty, dry skin and short hind legs, whereas “frogs” have smooth moist skin and relatively long hind legs.  Frogs are generally considered more aquatic than toads, but not always. 


Northwestern Salamander    Ambystoma gracile (Baird).   Common in many local habitats.Large, heavy bodied with prominent costal grooves, brown skin, smooth and moist w/ lighter colored granular (parotoid glands) areas behind the eyes, along sides and along top of tail. Adults up to 9.75”.

Long-Toed Salamander   Ambystoma marcodactylum (Baird).   Common in many local habitats.Exceptionally long 4th toe of the hind foot. Prominent costal grooves, black or brown skin with greenish yellow or yellow dorsal stripe. To 6 1/4”.

Olympic Torrent Salamander  Rhyacotriton olympicus (Gaige).  In small fast streams with steep gradient.  Back and sides green or gray without dark spots, bright yellow belly with large dark blotches or spots, distinct wavy demarcation. To 4”. Found only on the Olympic Peninsula.

Rough-Skinned Newt Taricha granulosa (Skilton).  Common in lowlands, uncommon higher elevations.Our only dry, skinned newt. No costal grooves, reddish brown above and bright orange below. To 8”.

Western Red-Backed Salamander Plethodon vehiculum (Cooper).  Common in many local habitats.Small (4”) slender woodland salamander even-edged dorsal stripe extending to tip of tail. Dorsal stripe may be yellow, orange, green or brown, sides black to gray with gray belly and white speckling. To about 4”.

Ensatina Ensatina eschscholtzii (Gray).  Common in many local habitats.  Stout bodied, twelve costal grooves, no dorsal stripe, reddish brown or tan, to 4.25”.

Frogs & Toads

Tailed Frog Ascaphus truei  (Stejneger).  Found in the small, fast-moving cold rocky streams of Olympics. Reddish brown or gray, prominent cloacal “tail” in males.

Pacific Tree Frog (Chorus Frog)  Pseudacris regilla (Hyla regilla) (Baird and Girard).  Common and very vocal in many habitats.  No other frog in our area has toes tipped with round toe pads. Up to 2”.

Red-legged Frog  Rana aurora  (Baird and Girard).  Common in the lowlands.  Brown or reddish brown with small black flecks and spots. Ventral sides of hind legs are red. Females to 4”, males to 2.75”.

Cascades Frog Rana cascadae (Slater).  Common in subalpine and forested swamps by streams.  Tan, copper, or olive green with prominant disctinctly-edged black spots.  Females to 3”, males to 2.25”.

Western Toad   Bufo boreas (Baird and Girard).  Uncommon in our area.  Large, females to 5”, males to 4”, dry warty skin with conspicuous parotoid glands behind the eyes, varying color.

Source: Amphibians of Washington and Oregon, Leonard, W.P., Brown, H.A., Jones, L.L.C., McAllister, K.R., Storm, R.M. Seattle Audubon Soc., Seattle WA, 1993.

Reptiles: Body covered by horny epidermal scales; respiration by lungs; amniotic eggs covered with leathery shells. The reptiles in our area consist of only lizards and snakes.  If you see a wild turtle on the Olympic Peninsula, please let us know.

Northern Alligator Lizard  Elgaria coerulea (Wiegmann).  Uncommon in lowland forests. A brown to dark brown or greenish brown lizard with a longitudinal fold on each side of the body. Brown eyes, up to 10 inches in length.


Rubber Boa   Charina bottae   (Blainville).  Uncommon to rare in the Olympic coniferous forests.  Distinct rubbery feel and appearance. Uniform in color, varying from olive green to brown, juveniles may be tan or pink. Usually less than 2 feet, maximum length of 33 inches.

Northwestern Garter Snake   Thamnophis ordinoides  (Baird and Girard).  Common in local habitats.  These snakes have the most variable scalation of any garter snake. They usually have 7 upper labial scales per side (rarely 6 or 8), and 8 lower labials per side (often 9, rarely 7 or 10). Colorwise, they are again the most variable of our snakes. A well-defined vertebral stripe is usually present, but may be faint, broken or absent. Its color may be red, orange, yellow, white or blue. They are relatively small garter snakes, usually less than 2 feet. Head size is small.

Common Garter Snake   Thamnophis sirtalis   (Linnaeus).  Common in local habitats. Again, scalation is important in identifying this garter snake. They usually have 7 upper labial scales and 10 lower labial scales per side (infrequently 8, rarely 6 or 9).  Coloration and pattern vary between and within the three subspecies of the Common Garter Snake in our area. Up to 52 inches in length.       

Reptiles of Washington and Oregon, Brown, H.A., Bury, R.B., Darda, D.M., Diller, L.V., Peterson, C.R., and Storm, R.M. Seattle Audubon Soc., Seattle WA, 1995.