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Quest for the Blue-Spotted Salamander


A few hours in knee-deep water was a small price to pay for Indiana University South Bend environmental physiologist Jim McLister’s reptile and amphibian team, just back from a wade on the Miller Woods trail. “I warned them ahead of time: There’s a lot of water where we going, and if we find even a few species we’ll be doing well.


The team recoiled briefly when they saw their trail submerged. “After the first few minutes in the water, though,” says McLister, “it was no big deal. And once we made our first find—a little tree frog tadpole—there was excitement, enthusiasm, a payoff! For this work, having as many eyes as possible helps, too. Everyone was on the lookout.”

Other expedition finds included a dead garter snake and a live blue-spotted salamander.

“I love herpetology,” says McLister, “because there are so many interesting creatures to find right in your own back yard. If you’d told my team yesterday that they’d go two-and-a-half hours and find five species, they wouldn’t have believed it, but they loved every minute. It was an adventure!”

Photographs by Jim McLister


  1. oosak
    October 25, 2012, 5:07 pm

    Northern Ontario- My kids find these guys all the time. In fact they love my basement. I still have not successfully found a food source allowing them to keep him more than a couple days. I have read that earth worms may be an option, but they are the same size as he is. any ideas?

  2. Sandy Steplock
    Lakefield, Ontario
    October 10, 2011, 3:16 pm

    this is exactly what I found but it was 5 -6 inches under a pile of damp rags
    picked it up kind of dormant and moved him into the rocks and leaves with the rag he liked and left him there only the 2nd one I have seen in the 10 years I have lived here

  3. Alice Draken
    June 27, 2011, 10:57 am

    Is this a kind of salamander you could find under a tree? (By the way, the tree is a few yards away from a pond.)
    I was weeding yesterday, and found something identical to what you have. Though mine looks black with the same markings as yours. I shoul say that from my point of view, yours also looks black, so maybe they’re the same?