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Aneides vagrans Wake & Jackman, 1999
Wandering Salamander
Family: Plethodontidae

Species account author: Prepared with contributions by Hugh Griffith and Brent Matsuda.


© Kristiina Ovaska     (Photo ID #2620)


E-Fauna BC Static Map

Distribution of Aneides vagrans in British Columbia in British Columbia
AmphibiaWeb US Distribution Map

Species Information

The Wandering Salamander is a small (to 180 mm total length), lungless, delicate-looking, dark salamander that can be dark brown to black with gold blotches and flecks over its body. They have squared toes and the hind feet are as wide as they are long. The tail is circular in cross-section.



Eggs are deposited under bark or rotting logs and stumps; the young hatch fully formed. Reproduction information provided by Amphibiaweb (2009) is as follows: 'Oviposition is thought to occur in spring or early summer in British Columbia (Stelmock and Harested 1979). Egg clutches have been found under the bark of a rotting Douglas fir log (Wood 1939; Dunn 1942) and at the base of a tree limb 30 - 40 m above the forest floor (Welsh and Wilson 1995). Reported clutch sizes vary from 6-9 eggs (Dunn 1942; Welsh and Wilson 1995). The average for the ovarian complement of eggs is 18, (range 14-26, Stelmock and Harestad 1979). Clutches have been found without a parent in attendance (A. ferreus, Storm 1947), with a female in attendance (A. vagrans, Dunn 1942), and with both a male and a female in attendance (A. ferreus, Storm 1947). '

Wandering Salamanders eat a variety of small invertebrates, including ants, beetles, spiders and mites (Storm and Allen 1947). The following information on the diet of this species is provided by AmphibiaWeb (2009): As with most salamanders, the Wandering Salamander is a generalist feeder. In California, the Wandering Salamanders diverse diet consisted primarily of hymenopterans (ants), coleopteran adults and larvae, isopods, and collembolans (Bury and Martin 1973). In a population in British Columbia, hymenoptera (ants), coleopterans, and gastropods were significant prey items in terms of both frequency and prey volume (Stelmock and Harestad 1979). Acarinians (mites) and collembolans had a high frequency of occurrence but their contribution to total prey volume was slight (Stelmock and Harestad 1979). Juveniles eat smaller prey than do adults (Stelmock and Harestad 1979).


Wandering Salamanders typically occur in coastal, mature-old growth conifer forests usually under rotting logs or loose bark and moss. They are agile climbers and can be found high up in trees.


Befitting its name, but only by coincidence, the Wandering Salamander has a peculiar distribution, which may have an anthropogenic explanation. It is native to coastal northern California, and is well-established on southern Vancouver Island, but found nowhere in between these areas. It was formerly regarded as the Clouded Salamander (Aneides ferreus), a species ranging all through California, Oregon, and Vancouver Island, until genetic evidence showed that the Vancouver Island populations were nearly identical to the California populations in both allozymes and mitochondrial DNA (Jackman, 1998). These populations were thus recognized as a new species, Aneides vagrans (Wake and Jackman, 1998).


Conservation Concerns

It is suspected that Californian salamanders were introduced to Vancouver Island during the nineteenth century, included in shipments of tan oak bark, used in the tanning of leather (Jackman, 1998).

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS3BlueSC (May 2014)

BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Notes

Interestingly, recent research on the Wandering Salamander by Spickler et al. (2006) has shown that in some regions these salamanders may be more arboreal, perhaps spending their entire lives in tree canopies living in fern mats. Spickler at al. (2006) state that: 'Population estimates indicated that individual [redwood] trees had up to 29 salamanders. Large fern mats have high water-holding capacities, which likely enable year-round occupation of the canopy by A. vagrans. Other observations indicate that A. vagrans and its close relative A. ferreus also occupy additional habitats in forest canopies, especially moist cavities inside decaying wood.'

Note Author: R. Klinkenberg July 24, 2009.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Aneides ferreus Cope, 1869

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Species References

AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. 2009. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: http://amphibiaweb.org/. (Accessed: Jul 24, 2009).

Jackman, T. R. 1998. Molecular and historical evidence for the introduction of clouded salamanders (genus Aneides to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, from California. Canadian Journal of Zoology 76: 1570-1580.

Matsuda, Brent M., David M. Green and Patrick M. Gregory. Amphibians and reptiles of British Columbia. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria.

Spickler, James C.; Sillett, Stephen C.; Marks, Sharyn B.; Welsh Jr., Hartwell H. 2006. Evidence of a new niche for a North American salamander: Aneides vagrans residing in the canopy of old-growth redwood forest. Herpetological Conservation and Biology, Vol. 1(1): 16-27.

Storm, R. M., and A. R. Allen. 1947. Food habits of Aneides ferreus. Herpetologica 4:59-60.

Wake, D. and T. Jackman. 1999 “1998”. Description of a new species of plethodontid salamander from California. Canadian Journal of Zoology 76:1579–1580.

General References