24 Types of Salamanders in Illinois

Types of Salamanders in Illinois
Photo by StefanHoffmann

Illinois may be the Land of Lincoln, but it’s also home to many different types of salamanders in Illinois.

This unique class of amphibians lives in all 50 states. But some species have become so rare that they are nearly extinct in Illinois. 

Also, Salamanders prefer to live in damp habitats like marshes and swamps. But they can also be found underwater or in potted plants!

And here’s what you need to know about these fascinating creatures that call Illinois home.

1. Lesser Siren

This type of salamander in Illinois has a slight, silvery stripe down its back. And it can be found on land or in water. If you’re out for an evening walk and see one, it’s probably not a lizard. 

In fact, it’s most likely one of approximately 33 different species of salamanders native to Illinois. They live among rocks and logs in wooded areas all over our state. 

However, most people have no idea that we have salamanders here, said Tom Kunz, executive director at The Nature Conservancy. But we do! And they play an important role in keeping our natural ecosystems balanced.

2. Eastern Newt

The eastern newt is similar to other types of salamander in Illinois. It has a black background with yellow, orange, and red coloring. The eastern newt lives all over North America, including Illinois. 

Basically, these salamanders prefer moist environments with plenty of vegetation. They eat insects and sometimes other salamanders. 

Moreover, adults average around 4 inches long, with females being larger than males. And which is typical in most species of animals and some types of plants.  

3. Mudpuppy

mudpuppy (waterdog) found across Illinois, although rare in some northern and central parts of the state.

Often found near slow-moving streams, ponds, or lakes. Necturus means swimming dog, which gives you an idea of how they got their name! 

However, very little is known about these secretive salamanders due to their secretive lifestyle. It’s one of the types of salamander in Illinois. Adult mudpuppies are large amphibians that can grow up to 6 long. 

They have four toes on each foot but two feet face backward while swimming. So it appears as if they have six toes.

4. Northern Slimy Salamander

This relatively small salamander doesn’t grow larger than three inches long. They are typically black or dark brown and have light spots scattered across their backs and sides.

These salamanders thrive near forest ponds and streams but can also be found under logs, rocks, debris, or within homes. 

5. Northern Red-backed Salamander

This smaller salamander grows to about four inches long, and it’s one of the types of salamanders in Illinois. It is typically gray, brown, or black in color. And with a red-to-reddish-orange stripe running down its back from head to tail. 

Moreso, it lives near clear water rivers and streams. And sometimes burrows into muddy soil near water plants during colder months when it hibernates.

6. Northern Zigzag Salamander

Also known as zigzag salamanders are not true salamanders (they’re actually members of a distantly related amphibian group called sirens).

But they do closely resemble them. They have wide, black, and yellowish-orange bands that look like zigzags, hence their name. 

However, the northern zigzag salamander is small, just 2 to 3 inches long when fully grown, and mostly nocturnal.

This species can be found throughout much of Indiana, including parts of southern Lake County. They’re found under logs or stones where moisture accumulates, along stream banks and lake shores, or at the edge of woodlands.

7. Eastern Red-backed Salamander

The eastern red-backed salamander is a fairly small species of salamander. Adult individuals range from 2.0 to 4.8 inches long and often are a dark reddish color on their backs with lighter-colored bellies.

However, they’re found throughout much of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. You can recognize them by their long fingers, slim bodies, and large hind feet.

Eastern red-backed salamanders are active all year, but their activity varies depending on weather conditions. 

Moreso, when temperatures are warm, they may be found under logs or rocks or near water sources; during cooler months. They burrow into mud at the bottom of ponds and vernal pools to hibernate through winter.

8. Four-toed Salamander

4-toed salamanders are one of the types of salamanders in Illinois and are common throughout their range.

The back and sides are black, with two yellow stripes running down each side. This salamander has four toes on its front and five on its back feet, hence its name. 

Moreover, four-toed salamanders prefer to live under logs, stones, and leaf litter within deciduous forests. They eat insects and invertebrates found there.

9. Cave Salamander

Cave salamanders are one of the types of salamanders in Illinois. They are known for their tendency to stay inside caves, hence their common name. Cave salamanders are light yellow with black spots and grow up to 8 inches long. 

Therefore, this type of salamander is found exclusively in Southern and Central Illinois. But if you see one, you should contact a wildlife officer because these are listed as threatened. 

Because they have such low populations, it’s also very important that we don’t capture them. Or interact with them to not disturb their habitat or hurt them.

10. Long-tailed Salamander

This salamander is light to dark brown, with darker speckling. It has an average length of 3.7 inches and a long tail that’s typically longer than its body.

Adults have yellowish-orange markings on their sides and sometimes orange dots on their bellies. 

Moreso, this species spends most of its life under logs or rocks near water or woodland ponds. It also burrows underground for protection from predators.

11. Southern Two-lined Salamander

The southern two-lined salamander gets its name from a pair of white stripes that run along each side. But it’s not actually limited to southern states.

This species is native to parts of New York and Pennsylvania and can be found in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. 

Also, it thrives across northern Florida, west into Texas, and throughout much of Louisiana. It can be distinguished from other salamanders by four yellowish-red spots that form a diamond shape near its tail.

12. Spotted Dusky Salamander

This is a small brown salamander with dark blotches on its back and tail. It has two short humps behind each eye, and its limbs are black. 

This salamander is found mostly along streams in northeastern Illinois. But it also lives under rocks or logs in a forested area. 

Moreso, at one time, it was thought to be extinct due to habitat loss and pollution. However, they were rediscovered when researchers found some of them inside caves at Starved Rock State Park.

13. Hellbender

The hellbender is an endangered species and can be found throughout portions of Illinois. These salamanders live around clear, cool streams and lakes. They feed on crayfish and other freshwater creatures. 

14. Jefferson Salamander

As adults, they are black or dark brown with yellow flecking and a broad yellow stripe along each side. Eggs laid by females are adhesive and typically lay between bark and moss on trees or logs.

While their preferred habitat is moist hardwood forests, salamanders can survive for short periods in dry areas if necessary. As adults, they are black or dark brown with yellow flecking and a broad yellow stripe along each side. 

Therefore, female eggs are adhesive and typically lay between bark and moss on trees or logs. While their preferred habitat is moist hardwood forests, salamanders can survive for short periods in dry areas if necessary.

15. Blue-spotted Salamander

A mostly terrestrial salamander, they can be found under rocks and logs during dry periods. They are sometimes found under man-made structures, such as an old shed or an unused building. 

But they should never be found inside a home. The blue-spotted salamander is not as large as other species, with adults averaging about four to seven inches in length. This salamander has two key identifying features.

First, a unique dark band that runs across its tail and has blue spots on its sides and legs. It’s important to remember that not all blue-spotted salamanders have both markings. And those without spots tend to be more common than those with spots.

16. Spotted Salamander

The Ambystoma maculatum, also known as a spotted salamander, is abundant in most of eastern North America.

It has an average length of between four and seven inches. They can grow much longer if they live near water sources. 

However, spotted salamanders are especially common in northern Illinois, where they often make their homes among rocks and other debris.

The distinguishing characteristic is its dark-spotted body coloration. Some say these markings resemble flecks or spots on a leopard’s coat. 

Also, as its name suggests, the spotted salamander has small black spots on their bodies from head to tail. Their eyes are light yellow to orange with black irises.

17. Marbled Salamander

Found throughout central and southern Illinois, as well as northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana.

Marbled salamanders are popular pets among amphibian enthusiasts and one of the types of salamanders in Illinois.

Also known as opossum salamanders or salties, they are one of the types of salamander in Illinois. 

However, they are generally nocturnal and shelter under rocks, logs, and other debris during daylight hours.

When threatened, these creatures’ skin secretions contain toxins that could cause respiratory distress when touched. 

Moreso, it is unlikely that you will encounter one of these reptiles outside its natural habitat. Marbled salamanders prefer mature forests close to a permanent water source, such as a lake or stream. As with all wild animals, leave them alone if you spot one.

18. Silvery Salamander

The Silvery Salamander is an endangered species, primarily because it relies on wet prairie habitats. It’s often overlooked because it’s so similar to its cousin, Ambystoma maculatum (Spotted Salamander).

It’s gray-colored with a slight silvery tint and yellow or gold spots that fade as it ages. However, this salamander grows to be five inches long.

They’re active at night and spotted during daylight hours if they’ve recently emerged from their burrows to hunt for food. Despite their name, adults are typically very shy and rarely bite when handled.

19. Eastern Tiger Salamander

These reach a length of three to four inches and are typically gray with black or dark-brown tiger stripes.

They’re named for their black spot on each side, which is shaped like an M. Eastern tiger salamanders are one of the types of salamander in Illinois.

Moreso, the eastern tiger salamander, is a wide-ranging species that can be found throughout most regions of North America.

It prefers creeks and brooks, but it can live at lower elevations if there’s access to water during drier months. 

Also, it can survive cold winters in colder climates. That is, if there are logs and burrows it can hide under when temperatures drop below freezing.

20. Small-mouthed Salamander

Small-mouthed salamanders are one of the types of salamanders in Illinois. And it can grow up to six inches long and are a darkish-brown color with yellow, orange, or black markings. They’re nocturnal and prefer to spend their time on land instead of water. 

21. Western Tiger Salamander

Western tiger salamanders are one of the types of salamanders in Illinois. They are small, relatively nondescript amphibians that can grow up to five inches long. They prefer streams, rivers, pools, mud puddles, etc., rather than ponds or wetlands.

22. Marbled Salamander

Marbled salamanders are one of the types of salamanders in Illinois. They are small and grey with light splotches on their backsides. They have a pointed snout and prefer cooler temperatures. 

23. Mole Salamander

Native to much of North America, these small salamanders are found throughout Illinois. While they live underground, they come above ground at night to feed on earthworms, slugs, and insects. 

Also, like other salamanders, mole salamanders have flat bodies and long tails to help them move around underground. They can grow up to four inches long. 

24. Mexican Walking Stick

This colorful arthropod has a unique defense mechanism. It stands up straight when threatened and looks like a twig or leafy branch. 

In fact, it can even break off its arms if disturbed. Its blood coagulates quickly to seal wounds so it can escape while predators figure out there’s nothing worth eating!

Conclusion

If you like reptiles, Illinois might just be the place to go! That’s because it’s home to several species of salamanders. Salamanders are amphibians that live primarily on land and can be found all around Illinois. But some states and countries don’t have any native salamander species. 

Moreso, the diversity of salamanders in Illinois makes it easy to plan an exciting, educational trip you’ll never forget! These are the different types of salamanders in Illinois and other fun facts about this fascinating creature!

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