The Charming Ensatina

By November 18, 2010Uncategorized

Carrie upturned a decomposing old log and showed us the lovely slender salamander and an ensatina crouching beneath, to a rounded chorus of “awwwwwwwes.”

Batrachoseps attenuatus (the slender salamander) is only found in California and the most southern bit of Oregon! You can observe them on your creek walks by looking under logs, in moist places along the creek bank. Please don’t pick them up; they’re happy where they are! But by all means show them off…..they’re an interesting little salamander with the tiniest nubby legs, which at first glance may seem like a silly way to get around. However, those miniscule appendages allow them to creep into earthworm burrows to forage for tiny mites and spiders and to find safe places to lay their eggs, as well as to estivate during the dry summer.

Female slender salamanders are even now seeking nesting sites to lay their individual eggs. They often use communal nests, in burrows of other creatures or under leaf and bark litter.

Positive ID: Look for a long narrow head, stubby little legs and a tail the length of the body or longer. They’re very common in back yards, so you can tell your creek tours to look for them when they get home. Make sure you put logs back down carefully, NOT on top of the salamander, but beside it. The salamanders can wriggle their way back underneath.

Ensatina eschscholtzii is another ensatina species found in the area, and what a charmer! They have orange to yellow eyelids, and orange to yellowish bands at the base of their limbs. There are two subspecies: the yellow eyed and the oregon ensatina, which you can tell apart by yellow eyes! These common little forest creatures can live up to 15 years, and have a couple of interesting characteristics. First, they have no lungs, but respirate through their skin! Don’t pick them up! When threatened, the ensatina raises itself on its front legs, and can exude a milky substance from the tip of its tail. This noxious substance repels potential predators and sticks to their mouths when they try to eat them!