3 Types of Salamanders Found in South Dakota! (ID Guide)

In the article titled “3 Types of Salamanders Found in South Dakota! (ID Guide)” the author provides an exciting and informative guide to help readers identify the various types of salamanders that can be found in South Dakota. The article begins with a friendly congratulations for discovering a salamander, highlighting the challenge of locating these amphibians. It goes on to describe the best places to find them and emphasizes the fun experience of searching for salamanders. The article then proceeds to provide detailed information about the three most common and interesting salamander species found in South Dakota, including their identifying characteristics and unique behaviors. With the help of detailed pictures and range maps, readers will be able to easily identify these fascinating creatures.

3 Types of Salamanders Found in South Dakota

Did you find a salamander in South Dakota? First, congratulations! Although these amphibians are widespread, they can be challenging to locate. The best places to look are in wet habitats under rocks and in creekbeds. Honestly, looking for salamanders is a really fun experience!

Below you will find a list of the most common and interesting salamanders that live in South Dakota. You will find detailed pictures, along with range maps for each species to help with your identification!

#1. Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)

Identifying Characteristics

Eastern Tiger Salamanders are adults ranging from 6 to 8 inches in length. They have dark gray, brown, or black coloring with brownish-yellow to greenish-yellow markings, ranging from large spots and stripes to small irregular shapes on the head, back, and tail. This species has a thick body and neck, short snout, strong legs, and a lengthy tail.

Habitat and Behavior

Eastern Tiger Salamanders are secretive and spend much of their time underground in woods, grasslands, or marshes. You’re most likely to see them moving about and foraging on rainy nights.

Diet

Their diet primarily consists of insects, worms, slugs, and frogs. However, if there’s a prey shortage, they become much less picky. In times of low food supply, they’ve been observed feeding on baby snakes, newborn mice, and small salamanders of other species. They will even cannibalize their own young!

Lifespan

Eastern Tiger Salamanders are very long-lived and have been known to reach 16 years of age in the wild. However, individuals in captivity can live much longer, up to 25 years.

Differences from Western Tiger Salamander

Although Eastern and Western Tiger Salamanders are closely related, it would be unusual to mix up these two species. First, because they rarely share the same range and aren’t often seen together. Secondly, Eastern Tiger Salamanders are much larger and have a black patch on their snout.

#2. Western Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma mavortium)

Identifying Characteristics

Western Tiger Salamanders are adults ranging from 3 to 6.5 inches in length. They have greenish-yellow coloring with black markings, ranging from large spots and stripes to small irregular shapes on the head, back, and tail. This species has a thick body and neck and a short snout.

Habitat and Behavior

Western Tiger Salamanders are secretive and spend much of their time underground. You’re most likely to see them moving about and foraging on rainy nights. Their favorite hiding spots are burrows, which they can make themselves or borrow from other animals.

Morphs

Interestingly, Western Tiger Salamanders have four distinct morphs as adults. Scientists classify them by whether they are aquatic or terrestrial and also by what they eat. For example, a typical Western Tiger Salamander eats insects and frogs, breathes above water, and spends time on land. However, there is a terrestrial morph that cannibalizes other Western Tiger Salamanders! In addition, there are cannibalistic and non-cannibalistic aquatic morphs that have gills and breathe underwater.

Diet

Western Tiger Salamanders are opportunistic feeders and eat whatever aquatic organisms they can catch. This includes insect larvae, small fish, fish eggs, aquatic worms, snails, and even carrion.

Differences from Eastern Tiger Salamander

Although Western and Eastern Tiger Salamanders are closely related, it would be unusual to mix up these two species. First, because they rarely share the same range and aren’t often seen together. Second, Western Tiger Salamanders are smaller and lack the black snout patch that Eastern Tiger Salamanders have.

#3. Common Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus)

Identifying Characteristics

Common Mudpuppies are adults ranging from 8 to 19 inches in length. They have rusty brown to gray or black coloring with scattered bluish-black or black spots, which sometimes merge to form stripes. The underside is whitish and may also have bluish-black spots. The large, bushy, red, or maroon external gills behind the flattened head make this species easy to identify.

Habitat and Behavior

Common Mudpuppies can be found in nearly any body of water, including lakes, reservoirs, ditches, and rivers. They are secretive and require habitats with lots of cover, such as boulder piles, submerged logs, tree roots, or vegetation. They spend their days hiding under rocks and become active at night, hunting by walking along the lake or river bottom. They can also swim.

Diet

Common Mudpuppies are opportunistic feeders and eat whatever aquatic organisms they can catch. This includes insect larvae, small fish, fish eggs, aquatic worms, snails, and even carrion.

Depth Range

In the spring, when water temperatures don’t fluctuate as much, Common Mudpuppies spend time in shallow water. However, they have been reported in water as deep as 100 feet during the summer and winter!

Conclusion

South Dakota is home to three fascinating types of salamanders: the Eastern Tiger Salamander, the Western Tiger Salamander, and the Common Mudpuppy. Each species has its own unique characteristics, habitats, and diets. Identifying and learning about these salamanders can be a rewarding experience for nature enthusiasts in South Dakota. So, keep your eyes open and explore the wet habitats of the state to catch a glimpse of these amazing creatures!

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