Salamanders in Great Smoky Mountains Park

Thirty species of salamanders can be found in and around the creeks in the park, from the 3-foot-long hellbender to the 2-inch-long pygmy salamander.
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Spotted Salamander. Photo courtesy John P. Clare on Flickr

Spotted Salamander. Photo courtesy John P. Clare on Flickr

Salamanders can be found in their greatest numbers and diversity in the Appalachian Mountains region. It's known as the salamander capitol of the world.

Thirty species of salamanders can be found in and around the creeks in the park, from the 3-foot-long hellbender to the 2-inch-long pygmy salamander. Some, like the red-cheeked salamander, can only be found in the Smokies. Many of these brightly colored amphibians are known as lungless salamanders: Instead of using lungs, they have evolved to “breathe” directly through their skins.

Where to See Salamanders

Turn over stones and logs in wet areas near creeks all over the park, and chances are excellent that you’ll find salamanders (make sure to replace their homes just as you found them).

Seeing Salamanders Up Close

Salamanders are one of the rare animals in the national park that you can study up close if you are careful and respectful. Visitors should not handle the amphibians. Since they breathe through their skin, the oil from your skin can hamper their ability to get oxygen. When biologists need to pick them up, they wear plastic gloves and scoop them up in a plastic bag.

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