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20 Vibrant Salamanders in Illinois

There are about 20 species of salamanders in Illinois. Samalanders and amphibians are an important part of Illinois’s ecosystem and are a sign of a healthy environment.

Salamanders in the wild live in woodlands, caves, urban areas, streams, ponds, and other clean waters. Not seen often, in the wild salamanders hide under rocks, and other similar debris.

If you ever spot a salamander in the wild in Illinois you can identify the species by its size, coloring, patterns, and the location of where you found it. This article will cover all the salamanders in Illinois, which includes around 20 species, and the interesting things that you should know about them.

Salamanders in Illinois

1. Jefferson Salamander

Jefferson Salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum) on a large rock
Jefferson Salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum) on a large rock – source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma jeffersonianum
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 4.3 to 7.1 inches (11 to 18 cm)
  • Lifespan: n/a
  • Average Price Range: $50

The Jefferson salamander is named after Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. It is a salamander species of Illinois and is also found in other states in the eastern U.S. Deciduous forest, and beech-maple forests in eastern Illinois are where this species is found within the state. Jefferson salamanders spend most of their lives underground.

Breeding season is when they come out most, which occurs in the spring. They are one of the first amphibians to emerge in the season and use vernal pools or fish-free ponds to breed. Females lay around 200 eggs, and hatch in only a few weeks. Their larvae aquatic stage lasts for 2 to 3 months.

The Jefferson salamander has dark gray, brown, or black coloring. Their body is very moist, and the underside of their body has lighter coloring. Sometimes gray, or blue spots cover their sides. Jefferson salamanders have slender toes, robust bodies, and thick heads.

Not usually seen, Jefferson salamanders mainly come out at night. They feed on terrestrial invertebrates like beetles, roaches, and flies. Skunks, snakes, and other amphibians are this species’ main predators. In Illinois, they are listed as an endangered species and are only found in two counties.

2. Blue-spotted Salamander

Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale) on a large yellow leaf
Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale) on a large yellow leaf
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma laterale
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 3 to 5 inches (7.62 to 12.7 cm)
  • Lifespan: n/a
  • Average Price Range: $25

In Illinois, the northeastern and north-central regions of the state are where blue-spotted salamanders can be found. In the wild, they live in wooded, and swampy habitats with sandy soil. Blue-spotted salamanders burrow underground, only coming out for a few days in spring to breed.

Blue-spotted salamanders lay their eggs attached to sticks, plants, rocks, and other debris near woodland ponds. They lay up to 500 eggs a year, which hatch in around a month. By late summer the larvae that hatch will transform into a terrestrial amphibians. This species of Ambystoma is one of many that breeds with the unisexual salmander.

Dark blue, or black in color, this species is covered with specks on its body. Their specks are bright blue, but larvae when young may have yellowish speckling. 12 to 14 costal grooves appear on their smooth bodies. Males like most amphibians are smaller than females but have longer tails.

Rare to find in Illinois, blue-spotted salamanders in the wild are only seen in the border northeastern counties. Blue-spotted salamanders are harmless to humans unless handled. They run if seen, but will also use its tail to distract predators, emitting a white toxin to defend themselves from being eaten.

3. Spotted Salamander

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) on wet dirt by water in Greenville County, South Carolina, USA
Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) on wet dirt by water in Greenville County, South Carolina, USA. – source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Ambystonmatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma maculatum
  • Other Names: Yellow Spotted Salamander
  • Adult Size: 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm)
  • Lifespan: 30 years
  • Average Price Range: $50

In the United States spotted salamanders are found in the eastern third of the country. In Illinois, the spotted salamander lives in the eastern borders counties. Their range in Illinois is mainly within the southern portion of the state. Hardwood forests, such as swamps, and other places with stagnant water are where the spotted salamander lives.

The winter until early spring is when the spotted salamander breeds, migrating to water pools when it rains. Females put their eggs in shallow pools with lots of algae. They lay up to 200 eggs, and after hatching they complete metamorphosis in around 4 months.

Spotted salamanders are a larger species, that have black, brown, or gray coloring. They have spots that are yellow or orange, that run down their back in two side-by-side rows. Their underside is light pink or gray, and about 12 costal grooves appear on their bodies.

The spotted salamanders eat small terrestrial invertebrates like spiders, crickets, ants, and worms. This salamander is a species with a conservation status of Least Concern, and they are common in their range. Like other similar species, they remain underground for portions of the year with extremely hot or cold temperatures.

4. Marbled Salamander

Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum) on a rock with moss
Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum) on a rock with moss
  • Experience Level: Intermediate 
  • Family: Ambystomatidae 
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma opacum 
  • Other Names: n/a 
  • Adult Size: 3.5 to 4.25 inches (9 to 10 cm)
  • Lifespan: 4 years 
  • Average Price Range: $30

In Illinois, the marbled salamander lives in the southern portion of the state. Marbled salamanders are native to the eastern United States, from New England to northern Florida, and west to Illinois and Texas. Marbled salamanders live in forests and woodland habitats. They burrow underground in loose soil, but may also be seen under debris like rocks or logs.

The marbled salamander has a black body, with bands that appear over them. Males have bands that are bright white, while females’ bands look more silver, both have an all-black underside. Marbled salamanders have may have purplish marbling for juveniles that have just transformed.

The marbled salamander mates in the fall, and come out from its burrows into breeding grounds. Unlike other Ambystoma species the marbled salamander breeds on land. They lay 30 to 200 eggs under moist debris. Females stay with their eggs until it rains and floods the area.

Marbled salamanders are nocturnal, and come out at night to feed on invertebrates. They eat a large amount of food their size and are able to build fat reserves to remain inactive for long periods.

5. Silvery Salamander

Silvery Salamander (Ambystoma platineum) by Douglas Mills
Silvery Salamander (Ambystoma platineum) by Douglas Mills
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma platinum
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 5.5 to 7.75 inches (12 to 19.9 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Average Price Range: n/a

An endangered species in Illinois, the silvery salamander is only found in the Coox, and Vermilion counties of the state. Silvery salamanders live in moist forests and woodlands. Ponds, reservoirs, lakes, and temporary sources of water are common where they live. Silvery salamanders live in burrows underground and are rarely seen unless breeding.

Silvery salamanders are an all-female species, and their existence is believed to have occurred because of crossbreeding. Silvery salamanders mate with other Ambystoma species. Males’ sperm only stimulate the development of the eggs but do not provide DNA. This process called gynogenesis, allows silvery salamanders to clone themselves.

Silvery salamanders have robust bodies and long tails. They have dark brown or black coloring. Their name originates from the silvery spots that appear on their back and sides.

Their diet mainly consists of the small invertebrates that live near them, which include slugs, worms, and soft-bodied insects. Predators that feed on this salamander include birds, fish, dogs, and snakes. Drought is thought to be a major cause of this species’ decline in Illinois.

6. Mole Salamander

Mole Salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum) on degrading log
Mole Salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum) on degrading log
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma talpoideum
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm)
  • Lifespan: 9 years
  • Average Price Range: $40

Mole salamanders are native to the eastern United States, and in Illinois, they inhabit the extreme southern portions of the state. Woodlands, floodplains, and other moist forests are where this salamander lives. They are found near ponds or permanent sources of water. Adults are terrestrial, while their larvae are aquatic.

Mole salamanders lay their eggs in the spring during heavy rain. Breeding occurs in the winter, when adults migrate to water pools, at the start of the rainy season. Only around 35% of adults breed in a year, and if conditions are not met they may not breed at all.

Gray, pale blue, or dark brown are the typical colors of the mole salamander. This species has a broad head, a short body, and legs. The underside of their body is lighter gray color and has a mottled pattern. The larvae of this salamander have two stripes on their underside, which helps distinguish them from other similar salamanders.

This salamander is able to delay its transformation and remain underwater if fish are not present. Moles salamanders like other similar species are nocturnal and usually hunt at night. Worms, slugs, insects, and other bugs are what their diet is made of.

7. Small-mouthed Salamander

Smallmouth Salamander (Ambystoma texanum) on stone
Smallmouth Salamander (Ambystoma texanum) on stone
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma texanum
  • Other Names: Texas salamander
  • Adult Size: 4.3 to 7 inches (10.9 to 17.78 cm)
  • Lifespan: 15 years
  • Average Price Range: $15

The small-mouthed salamander is found in the southern two-thirds of Illinois, and other regions in the eastern United States. Tall grasslands, woodlands, and other forests habitats near temporary pools and streams are where they live. Fishless pools and water are used by this species to lay its eggs.

Small-mouthed salamanders are active from February to September. Their breeding season starts in the early winter and spring. Up to 700 eggs are able to be laid by females and they attach them in clumps of 30 under debris and vegetation. Small-mouthed salamanders have a secretive nature since they share their breeding pools with a larger salamanders.

The small-mouthed salamander is small, with a grey, or dark brown coloring, and a black belly. This species has a flecking pattern on its body. They have small heads when compared to their long body, which has 14 to 15 costal grooves.

A subterranean species, the small-mouthed salamander comes out to feed on insects like beetles, moths, and slugs. To ward off predators they use a sticky toxin mucous, and should not be handled. Small-mouthed salamanders are nocturnal and only come out on rainy nights.

8. Eastern Tiger Salamander

Eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) found in woods on ground close up
Eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) found in woods on ground close up
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma tigrinum
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 7 to 13 inches (17.78 to 33 cm)
  • Lifespan: 15 years
  • Average Price Range: $40

Eastern tiger salamanders are native to the eastern region of the United States and are found all across Illinois. Forests, woodland areas near ponds, vernal pools, and streams are where they are common. Eastern tiger salamanders live in burrows they dig or ones created by other animals. They may even be found in rotting logs, or under leaf litter.

Spring is the breeding season for this species. Females lay up to 1,000 eggs, and place them to debris on the bottom of ponds. They hatch in the summer, and remain in their pond until they turn into adults grow their legs, and begin to use their lungs.

A large species, eastern tiger salamanders have thick bodies with dark brown or black coloring. The snout of this species is large and rounded. Yellow spots and blotches cover their body, and their bellies have an olive color.

Their diet is consistent with other salamander species, feeding on slugs, worms, and other small invertebrates they come across. When kept in captivity this species feeds two to three times a week. Their status is listed as least concern, but in some of their regions, they are endangered.

9. Spotted Dusky Salamander

Spotted Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus conanti) in shallow sandy creek
Spotted Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus conanti) in shallow sandy creek – source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Desmognathus conanti
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 2.5 to 5 inches (6.35 to 12.7 cm)
  • Lifespan: n/a
  • Average Price Range: n/a

Spotted dusky salamanders are found in the extreme south of Illinois. Upland deciduous forests and other wet woodlands are where this species lives. In the United States spotted dusky salamanders live across the eastern regions. Like other salamanders, they hide under moist rocks, logs, or leaf litter.

This species is medium-sized when fully grown, and its coloring ranges greatly from dark brown to black. Gold spots appear on their dorsal, which sometimes fuse together to create a large stripe on them. Their bellies have black coloring, with specks on them. This species is very similar in appearance to the northern dusky salamander but can be differentiated by the range they inhabit.

A common salamander, they are not an endangered animal and are abundant in its range. Spotted dusky salamanders feed on small insects, spiders, and other similar invertebrates they come across. This species is harmless to humans and flees if spotted.

10. Southern Two-lined Salamander

Southern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea cirrigera) walking up a mossy rock in Morgan County, Tennessee, USA
Southern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea cirrigera) walking up a mossy rock in Morgan County, Tennessee, USA. – source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Eurycea cirrigera
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 2.5 to 4 inches (6.35 to 10.16 cm)
  • Lifespan: n/a
  • Average Price Range: $15

Southern two-lined salamanders are found in the southeastern United States. In Illinois, they live in the east-central, and southeastern regions of the state. Southern two-lined salamanders inhabit moist woodlands with creeks or ponds. They are common to find on the edges of the water.

The southern two-lined salamander is identifiable by the two dark lines that run down the sides of its body. This species has tan coloring, with a small slender body. They have around 14 costal grooves on them, and their lungs are small and dainty. Their bellies are yellow, and on some salamanders, they are covered in a mottled pattern of black spots between their lines.

Millipedes, flies, ticks, earthworms, and beetles are what the southern two-lined salamanders eat. In the wild, they are abundant, and common in their range. To avoid predators they hide under leaf litter and other foliage.

11. Long-tail Salamander

Eastern Longtail Salamander (Eurycea longicauda) held on finger tips
Eastern Longtail Salamander (Eurycea longicauda) held on finger tips – source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Eurycea longicauda
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Average Price Range: $30

The long-tail salamander is found in the northeastern regions of the United States. In Illinois, they are found in the lower southern, eastern, and western border counties of the state.

Long-tail salamanders live in habitats such as bottomland forests, rivers, streams, and upland deciduous forests. Caves in the twilight or opening them are also other places this salamander lives in the wild.

Red, yellow, orange, or brown are the colors the long-tail salamander may appear in. They have dark spots and blotches and their dorsal side. Their bodies are sleek, and their tails are long.

This species is not protected and is a very common salamander in its range. They sometimes live close together, hiding under debris like large rocks, or logs. Rainy nights are when they come out, and small invertebrates are what this salamander eats.

12. Spotted Tail Salamander

Orange and black spotted Cave Salamander (Eurycea lucifuga) on top of fence plank
Orange and black spotted Cave Salamander (Eurycea lucifuga) on top of fence plank
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Eurycea lucifuga
  • Other Names: Cave Salamander
  • Adult Size: 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Average Price Range: $75 to $150

In Illinois, the spotted-tail salamander is found in the southern third, the east-central border, and northeastern counties within the state. Caves and rocky forests are where this species is common. They hide in moist regions like under debris, or around springs.

The spotted-tail salamander is a large species, and its tail makes up around 65% of its entire length. Their coloring is orange, or reddish. Dark black spots and blotches cover their entirety. The tail of this species is prehensile, which helps them navigate areas.

Summer and fall are when this species is out most breeding. Larvae are laid attached near water pools, or in springs. Females lay around 5 to 120 eggs. Larvae feed on snails, isopods, stoneflies, and other small invertebrates in the water. It takes around 6 to 18 months for this salamander it becomes terrestrial, and metamorphose into an adult.

13. Four-toed Salamander

Four-toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum) close up on a log
Four-toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum) close up on a log
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Hemidactylium scutatum
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 2 to 4 inches (5.1 to 10.2 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Average Price Range: $40

The northeastern corner of Illinois is where the four-toed salamander can be found in the state. Four-toed salamanders are native to eastern North America. Grassy areas, forests, and other similar areas near ponds, or bogs are where these salamanders live. They are a burrowing species, not seen in the cold winter or hot summer.

Four-toed salamanders only have four toes on their back legs. This species has orangish, brown, reddish-brown, or gray coloring. Four-toed salamanders have a white belly, with a black speckled pattern covering them. Their bodies are small and slender. Their tails usually have a brighter coloring than the rest of their body.

Four-toed salamanders feed on invertebrates like ticks, beetles, and spiders. The rainy months of fall through spring are when this salamander is seen most. They are nocturnal and hide near water under logs or other debris.

14. Eastern Red-backed Salamander

Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) out in the woods near a cave
Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) out in the woods near a cave – source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Plethodon cinereus
  • Other Names: Eastern Red-backed Salamander. Northern Red-backed Salamander
  • Adult Size: 2.2 to 3.9 inches (5.7 to 10 cm)
  • Lifespan: 20 to 25 years
  • Average Price Range: $15 to $30

Eastern red-backed salamanders are native to the northeastern United States. They can be found in Illinois, but only in the far eastern border counties. The eastern red-backed salamander lives in forested areas, and hides under logs, bark, and other debris. They are very common, in their range, and have a conservation status of least concern.

The red-backed salamander has different morphs and colorings that they may appear in. The lead-backed variation of this salamander has dark black, or gray coloring, with a mottled pattern on its belly. The red-backed version has an orangish stripe running down its center, and tan coloring.

One difference between the two phases of this salamander is how they deal with predators. The lead-back salamanders of this species run from predators, while the red-backed versions stay in place. Animals like ants, mites, and other small invertebrates are what this salamander eats.

15. Northern Zigzag Salamander

Northern Zigzag Salamander (Plethodon dorsalis) on moss
Northern Zigzag Salamander (Plethodon dorsalis) on moss – source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Plethodon d. dorsalis
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.35 to 8.89 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Average Price Range: $30

Northern zigzag salamanders are found in the eastern United States. In Illinois, this species is only found in the extreme southern tip of the state. Northern zigzag salamanders are found in wooded hillsides, hiding under rocks or other debris. Northern zigzag salamanders may hide underground, or go into caves during dry periods, or extreme cold.

Northern zigzag salamanders have a red, or orangeish zig-zag pattern that runs down their back, and tail. Their bodies can appear in gray, orange, or red coloring. This species has a black, or gray belly, with red speckles that appear on them.

The northern zig-zag salamander feeds on small invertebrates they come across, and are typically out at night. This species is terrestrial and is seen most in the fall through spring breeding season. Northern zig-zag salamanders lay their eggs in springs or crevices and are out most in the rain.

16. Northern Slimy Salamander

Close up of a Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus complex)
Close up of a Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus complex)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Plethodon glutinosus
  • Other Names: grey-spotted salamander, slippery salamander
  • Adult Size: 4.5 to 8 inches (11.43 to 20.32 inches)
  • Lifespan: 20 years
  • Average Price Range: $20

In Illinois, the northern slimy salamander is seen most in the southern half of the state. Forests with rocky slopes and moist areas are where this species lives, and they are native to the eastern United States. Northern slimy salamanders are terrestrial and are seen most in the spring, and autumn months.

A medium-sized salamander, this species has black coloring. They are covered in silver, and gold spots. Their bellies are also black, sometimes with light flecks. Their tail is long, and their body has 14 to 15 costal grooves. This species is one of the largest land salamanders in Illinois.

Northern slimy salamanders are secretive and may hide in burrows, under logs, or in rotting tree stumps on land. They go deeper underground in the cold, and hot periods of the year. Their skin secretes a toxin mucous that helps protect them from predators.

17. Eastern Red-spotted Newt 

Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) on mossy log at Caesars Head State Park, South Carolina, USA
Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) on mossy log at Caesars Head State Park, South Carolina, USA. – source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Salamandridae
  • Scientific Name: Notophthalmus viridescens
  • Other Names: Eastern Newt
  • Adult Size: 3 to 6 inches (7 to 12.4 cm)
  • Lifespan: 15 years
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $30

Eastern red-spotted newts are one of the many wild salamanders that live in the eastern United States. Forests, near freshwater, and springs are where this species lives. Adults and larvae of this species are aquatic, and juvenile efts spend their time on land. The eastern red-spotted newt is one of the few newts in Illinois and is found in the northern one-third, southern one-third, and central regions of the state.

When in its larvae stage this species is olive-colored and has large gills. When a juvenile this species has an orangish coloring, with small black dots on its body, bordered by orange spots. Adults eastern red-spotted newts are greenish and are also covered in small black, and orangish dots.

The eastern red-spotted newt feeds on mollusks, mosquitoes, and invertebrates they find. These species are preyed on by large fish, snakes, and small mammals. Eastern red-spotted newts are both nocturnal, and diurnal, and can be found often in woodlands, or streams.

18. Lesser Siren

Lesser Siren (Siren intermedia) on white background
Lesser Siren (Siren intermedia) on white background
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Sirenidae
  • Scientific Name: Siren intermedia nettingi
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 7 to 27 inches (17 to 69 cm)
  • Lifespan: Siren intermedia nettingi
  • Average Price Range: $30 to $80

Lesser sirens are found in the United States and Mexico. In Illinois, they mainly live in the southern portion of the state. Lesser sirens are aquatic and live in swamps, ditches, and other freshwaters. The fall to spring is when lesser sirens are active most.

Lesser sirens have olive green, black, or dark gray coloring. They are covered in a speckled pattern and have gills that extended out their neck. Lesser sirens have long, and slender bodies, and only have a pair of front legs to help them navigate.

Lesser sirens are nocturnal and hide in dark places like under rocks, or in mud bottoms. This salamander feeds on snails, crustaceans, tadpoles, and other aquatic invertebrates. They are mainly aquatic, and if their water source dries they are able to excrete mucous to keep themselves from drying out and will bury themselves in the mud.

19. Mudpuppy

Common MudPuppy (Necturus maculosus) held in two hands
Common MudPuppy (Necturus maculosus) held in two hands – source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Proteidae
  • Scientific Name: Necturus maculosus
  • Other Names: Waterdogs
  • Adult Size: 8 to 19 inches (20.3 to 48.2 cm)
  • Lifespan: 15 to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: $10 to $20

The mudpuppy is an aquatic salamander species that is native to the eastern United States and is found all across Illinois. Common mudpuppies live in lakes, rivers, ponds, and other freshwater sources.

They are typically active at night but may come out during the day in murky waters. In the wild common mudpuppies only live for around 11 years, but in captivity, they have managed to live for several decades.

Mudpuppies have brown, black, or gray coloring. They are covered in dark blue, or black spots. In water that is clear the mudpuppy may appear lighter in color. Common mudpuppies have external gills on the sides of their neck. GIlls may be larger in stagnant water and shrink in waters with a high oxygen level. Their bodies and limbs are flat, used to traverse the bottom of freshwaters.

Common mudpuppies have small teeth used for feeding on mollusks, crayfish, small fish, and other amphibians. Mudpuppies are preyed on by animals like water snakes, turtles, and larger animals they come across. Because they live in the water they are easily affected by pollution and drought. In Illinois, this salamander is considered endangered but has a conservation status of least concern in its overall range.

20. Hellbender

Eatern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) crawling on creek bottom
Eatern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) crawling on creek bottom
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Cryptobranchidae
  • Scientific Name: Cryptobranchus alleganiensis
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 13 to 24 inches (33 to 61 cm)
  • Lifespan: 30 years
  • Average Price Range: n/a

The hellbender salamander is a rare species in Illinois, and it has only been documented in six counties in the extreme southeastern regions of the state. Hellbenders are a near-threatened species and are native to the eastern states of the U.S. Hellbenders are aquatic salamanders, and inhabit streams, rivers, and other clean, fast-moving, well-oxygenated waters.

Hellbenders are the largest salamanders in Illinois and North America. This species is able to grow up to 29 inches. Adults are also able to weigh up to 5.5 lbs, which makes them the fifth heaviest amphibian in the world. This large salamander has gray, brown, or yellow coloring.

They are covered in spots, that are either dark or light. Their bodies are thick, and the hellbender’s tail is similar to a paddle to help them swim.

Crayfish are an important animal in their ecosystem, as hellbenders regularly prey on them. Small fish, tadpoles, and other amphibians are also what they eat. In Illinois, and other parts of their range this species is losing its population because of pollution, and the destruction of habitats they rely on.

FAQ

Where do salamanders live in Illinois?

Wild salamanders in Illinois are common in deciduous and mixed woodlands. Swamps, ponds, streams, and other water sources are usually near the habitats they live in. Certain species spend their lives in the water, while others on land. Salmandanders are nocturnal and are often found in moist places like under rocks, logs, or leaf litter.

Are the salamanders in Illinois dangerous?

Salamanders are not usually dangerous to humans, but they do emit toxins from their skin that can be potentially harmful. Salamanders use this to defend themselves from predators, but can also be irritating to the skin, or make us sick if ingested.

Being wild animals salamanders carry various germs which could include infectious bacteria like Salmonella. It is best to wear gloves since toxins from our hands can transfer into the permeable amphibious skin of the salamander.

Are there newts in Illinois? 

Yes, newts are found in the wild in Illinois. The eastern newt is the one newt species that lives in Illinois, and there are 6 species of newts in total that inhabit the United States. Newts tend to have rougher-looking skin than salamanders and are also not as slimy. Newts are just one of the many types of salamanders in Illinois.

Wrapping up

Salamanders are one of the many types of amphibians that live in Illinois. Like frogs or toads, salamanders are very susceptible to population loss. Habitat loss and pollution are the main reasons amphibians have been losing their numbers drastically. If found in the wild you should never take a salamander from its habitat to keep as a pet. Some species may make great pets, but many are endangered and should be preserved.

The 20 salamanders in Illinois help keep balance in the ecosystem by feeding on a wide variety of small invertebrates and are also used for food by animals like snakes, small mammals, larger frogs, and birds. Protecting the habitats the salamander live and breed in from pollution, and degradation is essential to keeping a healthy population of salamanders in the United States.

Other nearby states

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