How can I find salamanders?

Every single time I go walking, I flip over rocks to see if there are any salamanders hiding underneath, but it’s fruitless. I carefully investigate any mossy areas, but don’t see anything. The only live salamanders I’ve seen are this one newt I caught as part of a high school project and several larval marbled salamanders in vernal pools. With the Bsal pandemic on the horizon, I’d like to see at least a few different salamander species as soon as possible, but I just can’t seem to find any! Any tips?

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Perhaps, go to the Explore page and set a location and species in the Search fields. If you choose the Map display, it will show where observations have already been made.

Then, try exploring in the areas with the most observations. In my area, newts and salamanders are much harder to spot in the summer even in areas where they are fairly profuse in winter. Sometimes, if I closely watch shallow pond that has still, somewhat clear water, I may see newts kind of drifting along underwater (although they blend in very well with the sediment).

As an example, this search is for Salamanders in Santa Clara County, Ca.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=1250&taxon_id=26718

E.g.: This screenshot (zoomed in from above search results) shows a pond in Sanborn County Park (Saratoga, CA) where you can reliably spot newts most of the time.

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I’ve been having the same problem this year (though this is the first year since I was a child that I’ve been actively looking for salamanders). From what I remember as I kid, I’d often find them in the spring or late summer or early fall. I usually found them after rain and when it wasn’t too hot out.

You’ll likely have better luck in mid-September when the sun and heat aren’t too harsh

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I always find red backs, slimy salamanders, and other plethodons in the spring or fall under rotting wood and flat rocks, they prefer rotting wood that you could rip apart with your hands. I don’t know where they go during the summer and the only ones I see during that time are two lined salamanders in small creeks or streams. I haven’t seen any ambystoma yet so I can’t tell you anything about them

Depends on where you live and what species you might expect there. In my area (the desert Southwest U.S.), salamanders can be few and far between. Except for western tiger salamanders which you can usually find by dip-netting or seining cattle ponds.

Definitely wait until things are damp and rainy - summer is not a good time to look for salamanders, and if you do find one, you’ll probably be exposing them to the dry, warm, summer air. Here in California, I’ll see them out during night hikes on damp or rainy nights.

Following up on that, the thing about salamanders is that you often have to disturb them and their habitat in order to find them, so please do it judiciously and always carefully put cover objects back exactly how you found them. And don’t flip the same objects often, it prevents the cover object from forming a good habitat for them. Although I wouldn’t advise anyone to not look for salamanders, I’ve personally stopped doing much salamander searching over the last few years, I feel too guilty disturbing these sensitive creatures for a photo.

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Like others say, it depends on where you are. I live in the northern part of Ontario, Canada.
I find salamanders under rotten damp logs. The heat and dry weather, during the summer, make them move further underground. Rain brings them back up. I don’t think I have ever found one under a rock. Apart from newts, the rest of the salamanders here are only found in water in Spring when they mate.
I roll the log over carefully. If I think the salamander might be crushed when I roll the log back, I gently move the salamander to the side and roll the log back and usually the salamander will go back under the log right away. Always check inside the bottom of the log as I have found them there as well.

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I totally agree with @tiwane - I hate disturbing them during the day by flipping their cover. If salamanders are utilizing a rotting log as cover, moving it can often cause irreparable damage to their microhabitat. I much prefer to go out into the woods with a flashlight on mild rainy nights and find them when they are out and about, doing their salamander stuff! It’s so much more rewarding and interesting to see them active and engaging in their normal behaviors. It makes for more interesting photos too. Virtually all my salamander observations are made this way, e.g.:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/43044735

For some species, this not only requires local knowledge of good locations, but also of local behavior patterns. For example, some species are fossorial and only active at the surface during certain short periods of the year, e.g. Spotted Salamander in the eastern U.S. utilizes vernal pools to breed in the early spring, but is difficult to find at other times. iNat can be helpful for figuring out good locations and when to look. Contacting local herpetological groups and clubs could also help steer you to productive locations at the right times of year. Good luck!

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Thank you for all your tips everyone! Seems like generally nighttime during the rain is the best time for them. I’m in NC, which has the highest salamander diversity in North America (although it’s mainly the western half that gives us that superlative), which makes it all the more mortifying that I haven’t found an adult salamander yet, but with these tips I hope to finally do so in a nonintrusive way!

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The best time I think for looking for salamanders in around mid-september. Another method you can use is actually going into streams and looking in the water.

Flipping over rocks and other cover along cool streams and moist seepage areas is probably the most reliable way to find salamanders, and especially in the mountainous areas of NC there’s a huge diversity of species that use those habitats.

The best way to find mole salamanders is to drive along roads on rainy nights in their habitat during the breeding season, which takes place in late winter and early spring for most species and in fall for marbled salamanders. It’s also a great way to see them without disturbing their habitat and you can help them out by carrying them across the road in the direction they’re headed.

If you live in a more low-lying part of eastern NC, there will be fewer salamanders and that could explain why you haven’t seen them- but mole salamanders and some other species that tolerate warmer, dryer climates should still be present and if you’re lucky you could find a two-toed amphiuma if you search wetlands.

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