There are eight salamanders in Minnesota from a variety of families like Ambystomatidae, Plethodontidae, and a couple others.
Many of these salamanders resemble lizards. Both are slender, have a long tails,s and walk on four legs. So what are the differences? Well for starters, salamanders are amphibians while lizards are reptiles. As such salamanders are more closely related to frogs than they are to lizards. Salamanders have moist skin while reptiles have dry scaly skin.
Other salamanders such as mudpuppies look nothing like lizards.
Table of Contents
Salamanders in Minnesota
1. Blue-spotted Salamander
- Binomial Nomenclature: Ambystoma laterale
- Adult Length: 3 to 5 inches (7.6 to 12.7 cm)
- Conservation Status: S5 (Secure), Least Concern on IUCN
A. laterale has a black dorsum with blue spots and markings. This coloration gives the species its common name. A. laterale is a moderately sized salamander that can reach a length of about 5 inches. These amphibians are endemic to eastern Minnesota and mostly occur north of the Twin Cities.
These amphibians inhabit forested areas and gravid females deposit their eggs into temporary ponds in these forested areas. There are instances, where larvae do not undergo metamorphosis before these temporary ponds dry up.
A. laterale is endemic to northeastern North America. The species is endemic to southeast Quebec, there are disjunct populations in Nova Scotia. Other provinces with noticeable populations include Labrador, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island.
Within the United States, the species is endemic to states in the northeast. These include Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Indiana, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
2. Spotted Salamander
- Binomial Nomenclature: Ambystoma maculatum
- Adult Length: 6 to 9.5 inches (15 to 24 cm)
- Conservation Status: S3 (Vulnerable), , Least Concern on IUCN
The species is endemic to just two counties in Minnesota. These are Carlton and Pine. within Minnesota, the species is endemic to the Laurentian mixed forest.
A. maculatum is endemic to eastern North America. This includes provinces in Canada. A. maculatum is endemic to the southern portion of Canada. In the united states, the range stretches as far south as eastern Texas and as far west as eastern Iowa.
The species is endemic to mixed forests and hardwood forests. Regardless of where the species is, there has to be a vernal pool or swamp close by. The individuals of the species are always hidden unless it’s breeding season. They hide underground in burrows or under logs, and rocks.
3. Western Tiger Salamander
- Binomial Nomenclature: Ambystoma mavortium
- Other names: Barred Tiger Salamander
- Adult Length: 6 to 14 inches (15 to 35.6 cm)
- Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
- Conservation Status: S5 (Secure)
This species is endemic to southwestern Minnesota. Within Minnesota, the species is mostly endemic to the Prairie Parkland (PPA) Province.
The western tiger salamander is endemic to western North America. The range extends as far south as Mexico and as far north as Canada. Within Canada, the species is endemic to British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The range in Canada is limited to the southern portion of the provinces mentioned.
Within the united states, the species’ geographic range stretches as far east as Minnesota. Other states that A.mavortium is endemic to include Navajo Nation, Nebraska, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado.
A.mavortium is also endemic to Puebla in Mexico.
A.mavortium is terrestrial and is always found close to an aquatic habitat such as a stream pool, ephemeral pond, permanent pond, reservoir, and lake. These water bodies have to be suitable for breeding.
A.mavortium has a lifespan of 12 to 15 years.
4. Eastern Tiger Salamander
- Binomial Nomenclature: Ambystoma tigrinum
- Adult Length: 8 to 10 inches (20.3 to 25.4 cm)
- Conservation Status: S5 (Secure), Least Concern on IUCN
This is the most common salamander in Minnesota. It s also one of the most common salamander species in North America. Within Minnesota, the species is endemic to forested areas and prairies.
This amphibian is black with yellow patterns which may be spots, blotches, or stripes. Other eastern tiger salamanders are yellow with black spots. This black and yellow coloration gives the tiger salamander its common name.
The largest known A.tigrinum within Minnesota was recorded in Douglas County. This salamander measured almost 14 inches. The species generally measure 8 to 10 inches.
A.tigrinum larvae known as waterdogs are often available at bait stores.
The eastern tiger salamander is endemic to most of North America. In Vandana, the species is endemic to Manitoba and may be extinct in Ontario. Within the United States, the species is absent from just a handful of states on the mainland.
5. Four-toed Salamander
- Binomial Nomenclature: Hemidactylium scutatum
- Adult Length: 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.2 cm)
- Conservation Status: S3 (Vulnerable), Least Concern on IUCN
The four-toed salamander is a small salamander that grows to be just 3 to 4 inches. The coloration is dark. The distinguishing characteristic which gives this amphibian its common name is the presence of four toes on each of its hind feet. All other salamanders in Minnesota have five toes on their hind feet. Most salamanders in North America also have five toes on their hind feet.
The species is endemic to northeastern Minnesota. The first four-toed salamander in Minnesota was discovered in 1884 in the Chippewa National Forest.
Hemidactylium scutatum is endemic to eastern North America. However, the distribution of the species is disjunct. Within Canada. The species is endemic to Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Within the United States, the geographic range stretches as far south as Florida and as far west as Minnesota and Oklahoma.
6. Eastern Red-backed Salamander
- Binomial Nomenclature: Plethodon cinereus
- Adult Length: Less than 3 inches (7.6 cm)
- Conservation Status: S3 (Apparently Secure), Least Concern on IUCN
This species has a brown dorsum with a red stripe that runs down its back to the tip of its tail. Ths red stripe gives the species its name. Similar to other species within the family Plethodontidae, the redback salamander has no lungs. These amphibians respire through their skins. For this reason, it is not advisable to handle Plethodon cinereus as you can easily damage their skin which is delicate.
Interestingly, Plethodon cinereus is the only salamander in Minnesota that doesn’t have an aquatic larval form. Gravid females lay eggs under rocks, logs, and other surface objects. The hatchlings emerged fully formed and simply resemble miniature versions of the matured individuals.
The species is endemic to northeastern Minnesota.
Plethodon cinereus is endemic to the eastern United States as far west as Minnesota. The species is also endemic to southeastern Canada from Ontario all the way to Nova Scotia.
- Binomial Nomenclature: Necturus maculosus
- Adult Length: 15 inches (38.1 cm)
- Life Span: 20 years
- Conservation Status: S3 (Vulnerable)
The mudpuppy is one of the biggest salamanders in North America and Minnesota and can grow to 15 inches. They are over a foot long and can be starling to see if you are not used to seeing one. The species has a bluish coloration with large red gills. These salamanders are fully aquatic and live in an aquatic habitat all their lives.
These interesting amphibians can be found in all the major river systems in the state. They can also be found in some large lakes. The species aren’t found in the Mississippi river above St. Anthony Falls as they are unable to get up the waterfall.
The mudpuppy is endemic to eastern North America. This includes provinces in Canada and states in the United States. The mudpuppy is endemic to southern Quebec to southeastern Manitoba within Canada. In the united states, the species is endemic to most of the eastern United States.
8. Eastern Newt
- Binomial Nomenclature: Notophthalmus viridescens
- Adult Length: 2.5 to 5 inches (6.4 to 12.7 cm)
- Conservation Status: S3 (Apparently Secure)
The eastern newt is endemic to northeastern Minnesota. The species gets its common name from its geographic range within the entire of North America and not just Minnesota.
The species start life as a larva before transforming into an eft. An eft is the intermediary form and is equivalent to a teenage stage. In this stage, the species is bright reddish orange. The skin of the eft is toxic and the bright color deters predators. The toxins produced by the skin aren’t powerful enough to kill a human but it is still quite unpleasant. Efts are terrestrial.
The species then develop into adults. As adults, the coloration of their skin is greenish with red markings. Adults are aquatic.
The eastern newt is endemic throughout entire North America. This amphibian can be found in southern Canada in provinces such as Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.
Within the United States, the species can be found across the entire eastern United States. Within Minnesota, Notophthalmus viridescens holds a NatureServe Status of S4 – Apparently Secure. The population is considered to be quite stable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are salamanders in Minnesota poisonous?
Salamanders in Minnesota are poisonous. However, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue as the poisons produced by these salamanders are mostly not potent enough to be deadly. Regardless, they taste horrible and should never be ingested.
Are there salamanders in Minnesota?
There are about eight salamanders in Minnesota. These include the eastern tiger salamander, the western tiger salamander, the mudpuppy, the eastern newt, the redback salamander, the four-toed salamander, the spotted salamander, and the blue-spotted salamander.
Is it good to have salamanders in your yard?
Salamanders are good at hiding. If you have salamanders in your yard, they generally should not be an issue. However because they are toxic, they can be harmful to pets that ingest them and even humans that put them in their mouths. As such, they can be a hazard to little children who don’t know better.
While salamanders are generally not dangerous, they are still toxic.
Is it OK to touch salamanders?
As mentioned already salamanders are toxic. This means that it is not okay to touch salamanders. Apart from having toxic skin, salamanders have delicate skin. Handing the salamander will cause more damage to it. When not carefully handled, you can easily injure the amphibian.
There aren’t many salamanders in Minnesota. In fact, there are just eight salamanders in the state and these are the eastern tiger salamander, the western tiger salamander, the mudpuppy, the eastern newt, the redback salamander, the four-toed salamander, the spotted salamander, and the blue-spotted salamander. Most of the salamanders in Minnesota are endemic to the east.
Apart from the mudpuppy, all the salamanders within the state resemble lizards in shape and anatomy. Lizards and salamanders are two different animals. Salamanders are amphibians and are more closely related to other amphibians such as frogs. Lizards are reptiles and are more closely related to reptiles such as snakes.
Other nearby states