Specific information regarding the California Slender Salamander was cross-referenced using:
1. Page 307 and Plate 76, The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and
Amphibians. c. 1979.
2. Pages 168,194-195, 472-473, and Plate 11, Western Reptiles and Amphibians (3rd ed.).
Web9. http://www.amphibian.co.uk/batrach.html [Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps) Care Sheet]
PLETHODONTS: Family - Plethodontidae
No, of course not!
This little guy is a California Slender
Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus).
It is one of the most commonly seen
amphibians and the only member of the
genus Batrachoseps in our area.
Slenders are members of the plethodont
family. They have no lungs, and breathe
entirely through their skin. They are
completely terrestrial and undergo no aquatic larval stage (babies are mini short-tailed,
long-legged, and large-headed replicas of the adults). All slender salamanders have
"many teeth" as is implied by the definition of their family name. Males have a broader
squarish snout and projecting upper premaxillary teeth (which are used in mating). Like
all plethodonts, slenders have a nasolabial groove extending from each nostril to the
upper lip; these aid in picking up chemical information from the environment and are
believed to play a part in salamander communication.
There are 19 species of slender salamanders in the state of California; telling them apart
often requires molecular samples. Hybrid zones also exist throughout the state.
Fortunately for us, every slender salamander in our range is a B. attenuatus. Unless we
are searching for new possible subspecies of this species or are exploring beyond our
area of study, knowledge of subspecies-specific traits is less crucial.
California Slender Salamanders average from 3 to 5 1/2 inches in length (1 1/4" to under
2" snout to vent). Tails may be twice as long as snout to vent length, especially in males.
Adults are short-limbed and very worm-like; it takes a while for the juveniles' bodies and
tails to outgrow the proportions of their heads and legs. Everything becomes elongated.
Males are usually more streamlined. The feet are normally small and narrow, and like all
Batrachoseps there are four toes on both the front and back feet. Costal grooves number
between 18 and 21.
California Slenders may be found in a variety of earth-tone colors. The ground color is
primarily sooty or black, however most have a broad dorsal stripe that may be brick red,
brown, yellow, or tan with or without dorsal or dorso-lateral mottling. The dorsum is often
indented with V-shapes down its entire length. Belly color is usually black or dusky and
finely speckled with white.
The geography of this species begins along the southwest coast of Oregon near the
mouth of the Rogue River, and continues south along the coast and coastal mountains to
Southwest Santa Cruz and Northern San Benito Counties of California. Inland and
separate it may be found in the northern Sierra foothills. Isolated populations exist in
Shasta County and parts of Northern California's Central Valley. In our area, California
Slenders may be found along the coastal redwood belt of Del Norte and Humboldt
Counties (This species' range expands slightly inland in So. Humboldt and Mendocino
California Slenders inhabit variable terrains that include woodland, forest (esp. redwood),
chaparral, grasslands scattered with trees, as well as yards and vacant lots. One need
not look far. Here in Eureka, CA we find them all the time beneath the flower pots, rocks,
and driftwood in our yard. Although they are not aquatic, plethodonts do need consistently
moist living conditions. From fall to late spring or summer they are additionally found
under logs, boards, bark, in rotted tree roots, and damp leaf litter. Space is often shared
with one of the their plethodont cousins - the ensatina. During the dryer parts of summer
many salamander species aestivate (summer "hibernation") and are more difficult to find
as they seek deeper shelter. Failure to do so results in dessication.
Like most salamanders, the activities of the California Slender take place at night.
Despite their small legs, slenders can cover quite a distance in a short time, however,
they usually stay within a confined territory. Here they forage for worms and a variety of
small invertebrates. Prey is caught in fashion similar to that of frogs - with a length of
sticky tongue; and rumour has it that they are a good shot!
Breeding and egg deposition take place in late fall or winter, often in communal nests.
Females often guard and maintain the moisture of their eggs. Hatchlings, numbering
four to twenty-one, arrive winter or spring.
Slender salamanders have a unique defensive behavior. Besides slinking into tight
crevices, when threatened, slenders will coil and use their tails as a spring so as to
"catapult" themselves out of an enemy's grasp. This more than not resembles the frantic
antics of a wriggling worm. As a last resort, if the tail is caught, slender salamanders are
capable of caudal autonomy - "Break the tail and escape! A new one will grow back later."
Slender salamanders fall victim to a variety of predators. Exposed, this could include any
animal that takes worms, especially since lungless salamanders do not possess the
toxic properties that are found in many other amphibians. Under cover, slenders fall prey
to larger frogs and salamanders (hatchlings may be cannibalized by adults) as well as
small snakes such as the Pacific Ring-necked and the Sharp-tailed Snake. They are
often exposed and eaten by foraging raccoons, skunks, or opossums. If you look like a
If predation can be avoided, and the habitat remains suitable, the California Slender
Salamander can astonishingly reach a longevity of 7 - 10 years!
California Slender Salamanders are extremely difficult to maintain in captivity, and although it is
permissable to keep them, we do not recommend it.
In accordance with the Native Reptile and Amphibian Captive Propagation Laws and Regulations of
the California Department of Fish and Game, you are allowed up to 4 of the slenders within our range
at any one time with a standard up to date California fishing license. Propagation is not permitted.
Being caught propagating without permission will result in fines as well as the confiscation of the
captive collection and its destruction. Both captively bred and kept wild-caught specimens should
never be returned to the wild without special permission and professional supervision. Parasites and
diseases that may be found in the wild are often transferred to captive collections; likewise
stress-related illnesses acquired in captivity may affect wild populations.
At present, we do not regularly track
all the numbers of California Slender
Salamanders we come across, as they
are quite common within our area. I
do however document new localities
and revisited sites; these are listed as
you scroll down the page
Many of our field observations have
shown us that there are places where
slenders live exclusively, and it is our
belief that if we know where they are
common, unless wildlife management
conservation strategies are required,
we need not lift any more logs to
Also, please see safe and responsible
on the "In the Field" page of this
|Sandy Gulch - Eureka,CA
|Sequoia Park - Eureka, CA
near Strawberry Rock
east of Trinidad, CA April 4, 2007
We often find slenders in pairs.
We are pretty certain that the
reddish-brown specimenswith the
long tails are male, while the shorter
browns are the females.
It is best to avoid handling
slenders salamanders due to
the permeability of their skin;
our sweat can be toxic to them.
If you are compelled to do so,
please wash up beforehand.
EXTREMELY DIFFICULT / HIGH MAINTENANCE
behind Redwood Fields, Cutten
(near Eureka, CA) February 27, 2008
near Strawberry Rock
east of Trinidad, CA March 16, 2008
Arcata Community Forest
Arcata, CA April 23, 2008
South Spit near glider jump
January 20, 2009
Stout Grove, Redwood State Park
(Southern Humboldt Co.) 12-30-09
Myer's Flat (drive-thropugh tree)
(Southern Humboldt Co.) 12-30-09
G = GPS01
G = GPS01 & GPS02
|Continued sightings (most all have photographs on file)
2010-04-22 6 adults - Ryan Slough watershed (Humboldt County) NO GPS
2010-06-05 1 adult - Ladybird Johnson Grove, RNSP (Humboldt County) NO GPS
2011-01-12 1 adult - Ryan Slough watershed (Humboldt Co.) NO GPS