Pleasanton Ridge, during winter rains
Las Trampas Regional Wilderness, aquatic phase, breeding male, during winter rains
Long Ridge Open Space Preserve, April
Sunol Regional Wilderness, April
California Newt - Taricha torosa
The California Newt is one of five members of the newt family Salamandridae in California. This newt is endemic to California, occupying a coastal range from Humboldt County to the Mexican border and the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Terrestrial adults are around 4.9 - 7.8 inches long, yellowish-brown to dark brown along the back and pale yellow to orange on the belly.
Their poisonous skin secrets a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin for defense against predators; thus, one should exercise great care if handling these creatures. Its primary native predator is the Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis) which has developed a genetic resistance to tetrodotoxin. To expose its bright orange coloration, a newt will raise its head and point its tail while arching the back and turning the legs upward as a warning to predators.
Status and Conservation
The California Newt is currently a California Special Concern species (DFG-CSC), but does not posses a federal conservation status. Its IUCN Red List status is of least concern. Invasive species such as Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and Crayfish (Procambarus clarkia) pose a predation threat to newt populations by preying upon larvae.
Newts can travel great distances to return to the ponds where they were born in order to find a mate. To allow a safe migration passage for Taricha torosa, the East Bay Regional Park District closes South Park Drive where many newts will cross in Tilden Regional Park from the beginning of November until April 1st.
Where to View
These salamanders can be seen under damp leaf litter in moist habitats or in crevices during the daylight hours. They spend the dry months of summer and fall in underground burrows, gopher holes, or under rocks waiting for rain. They become aquatic when breeding and can be found near creeks and small ponds. The Locations page has details about all these places.
- Taricha torosa is a native of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range. On land you can most easily see them when the rains come. Otherwise they can often be seen in ponds and small lakes at various parks like Sunol Regional Wilderness, Las Trampas Regional Wilderness, Long Ridge Open Space Preserve.
- As the rains come in the time between February and May, newts migrate to the UC Botanical Garden's Japanese Pool where their mating and socialization rituals are performed. Visitors can easily observe these activities at the pond. Check out the UC Botanical Garden Berkeley website for more information.
- Spring rituals of courtship and mating can also be observed in the East Bay Regional Parks, for example in the seasonal ponds at Sibley Volcanic Preserve and in small creeks at Briones Regional Park.
- Annadel State Park, Santa Rosa.
Articles and Links
- Detailed species page from CaliforniaHerps.com, the most authorotative source for information on California herps, by Gary Nafis.
- Identifying California Salamanders and Newts - an article on CaliforniaHerps.com
- Newts on the Ridge, blog post, sfbaywildlife.info, 20 Nov, 2012
- Life Aquatic and Terrestrial: California Newts by Sharol Nelson-Embry, QUEST Northern California, 30 Mar, 2012.
- Newt migration prompts road closure in Tilden Park, The Daily Californian, 28 Oct, 2012.
- Rains Lures California Newts Home to Mate, Bay Nature, 5 March, 2014. Includes video on California Newts and Frogs.
- Informative podcast by Paul Licht, Director of UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens
- Conservation status and history of the California Newt, AmphibiaWeb, by Shawn R. Kuchta.
- Western Newts in Toxic Animals Around the World
California Newts in Briones Regional Park, from KQED Quest
Ode to Newts from Christine Sculati on Vimeo