Western Redback Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum)

In my native Ontario, I have encountered the diminutive Eastern Red-back Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) many times. However, this year I had the opportunity to observe the larger Western Red-backed Salamander (P. vehiculum). To see this species I had to travel west to the other side of the country.

On May 31/2018 I was very fortunate to have several encounters with the Western Red-backed Salamander (P. vehiculum). During a Trip to British Columbia in May I decided to venture out to a forest approximately 1 hour east of Vancouver in an attempt to locate the Western Red-back Salamander. Upon arrival, I noticed how pristine the forest looked, so I was very hopeful that I would find some salamanders here.

Western Red-back Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum) Habitat
Western Red-back Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum) habitat

Shortly after parking the car I started walking into the forest, after only 2 minutes of walking I decided to look under a log where I was very surprised to see a very large Western Red-back Salamander (P. vehiculum). I was shocked by the size of the Western Red-back compared to the Eastern Red-back’s that I am used to seeing at home, it was approximately 4 times the size. As I continued to stare at this Western Red-back I also noticed the interesting color variation, this salamander was almost erythristic with 2 black lines running down either side of his body.

Western Red-back Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum)
Western Red-back Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum)

After taking a few photos and admiring this animal for about 10 minutes I decided it was time to continue on the trail and see what else I could find. I only walked about 15 meters and flipped another large log to take a look, I glanced under it and I seen another Western Red-back. This salamander however was much different then the last one as it was black with a yellowish stripe down its back. After admiring it for several minutes and capturing some photos I continued along the path in search of some more salamanders.

Western Red-back Salamander with yellowish stripe (Plethodon vehiculum)
Western Red-back Salamander with yellowish stripe (Plethodon vehiculum)

I flipped several more logs, and found Western Red-backs under almost every log, this was clearly a really good spot for them. Most of the Western Red-back Salamanders (P. vehiculum) I found were either black with a yellowish stripe or black with a red stripe. The first salamander I had found (red with two small black stripes running down either side) seemed to be very unique. I documented around 30 Western Red-back Salamanders within the span of an hour, and I am almost certain I could have seen many more if I had spent less time with each individual animal. However, I wanted a chance to be able to get a good look at each one as I had not seen a Western Red-back before.

Western Red-back Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum)
Western Red-back Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum)

I was glad I had the opportunity to see and document this species in the wild, and look forward to my next adventure!

Venture to find the Western Redback Salamander

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