NEWTS & SALAMANDERS

Newts and salamanders have taken a backseat to frogs in stories, games, and puppetry. However, they can be just as entertaining as frogs, as anyone who has seen the lost Muppet Sammy the Salamander, can attest.

Newts and salamanders are freshwater amphibians that are often confused for lizards because of their, surprise, surprise, lizard-like appearance. You can distinguish them from lizards because their skin is often moist, whereas lizards often have the appearance of dry skin. The biggest difference between amphibians and reptiles is that amphibians are born with gills and some retain their gills for their entire lives. For example, mudpuppies are salamanders that spend their entire lives in the water. Because mudpuppies only have two small feet, they are often confused with snakes, especially by 12-year-old girls playing in the creek. I'm not proud of it; don't ask.

There are 11 species of newts and salamanders in North Louisiana, but they are extremely hard to find. In my life, I've seen two salamanders in the wild, the aforementioned mudpuppy at a place called "the Park Creek" - mostly to identify it as a separate place from "Memaw's Creek" - and a spotted salamander at Black Bayou Lake. Mudpuppies are the largest and most distinct species of salamander in North Louisiana, and they keep their gills after they reach adulthood. Since we agreed not to talk about the mudpuppy, we'll talk about the spotted salamander.

Spotted salamanders are found in hardwood and mixed forests throughout the eastern United States. They can live up to 30 years, although most are killed as tadpoles by predators, disease, and changing ecology of their surroundings. Their diet is consistent with other salamanders and newts. Adults have a sticky tongue to catch earthworms, snails, and other invertebrates.

Although newts and salamanders are found throughout North Louisiana, I’ve only seen these animals a few times in my wildlife treks. Some salamanders - like mudpuppies and amphiuma - live on the bottoms of ponds and streams and rarely or never leave the water. Most species of both newts and salamanders hide under rocks, logs, leaves, and vegetation and in subterranean tunnels, making them difficult to find. They are even more difficult to find because they are nocturnal.

Like frogs and toads, salamanders and newts are carnivores, eating mostly insects. Larger salamanders, like amphiuma and mudpuppies eat fish. For the same reason, salamanders and newts serve an important function in the North Louisiana ecosystem, which is full of insects.

Only one species of newt is found in North Louisiana: the eastern newt. On the other hand, ten species of salamanders found in North Louisiana include the spotted salamander, marbled salamander, mole salamander, the three-toed amphiuma, southern dusky salamander, spotted dusky salamander, dwarf salamander, Louisiana slimy salamander, southern red-backed salamander, and the lesser siren.

Where to Find North Louisiana Newts & Salamanders

You can find North Louisiana newts and salamanders in or near slow-moving and stagnant water. They generally hide under rocks and logs in or near the water. Be careful if you search for them, as these areas are also home to venomous snakes and spiders.