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California Giant Salamander Fact File

Dicamptodon ensatus








Wild Unknown

Captive Unknown



Insects, Mice

Conservation Status


Least Concern

California giant salamanders are as their name suggests found in the state of California in the United States.

These animals are carnivores with a wide ranging diet including insects, small mammals, reptiles and other amphibians.

Two forms of the California giant salamander exist. Most metamorphose from a juvenile to become an adult which lives on the land. Some though never metamorphose and spend their entire life in the water. They will retain their gills for this.

They are threatened by siltation and habitat degradation within their habitat.

Learn more about these amazing amphibians by reading on below.


Their body is colored brown or reddish-brown across much of the body with dark or copper-colored marbling. Young animals are colored goldish soon after they metamorphose.

They have large eyes and the tail is laterally compressed. Their are four toes on the front feet and five on the back.

An adult California giant salamander will measure 18-30cm (7-12in) long.

They are among the largest of the land-living salamanders on Earth.


The California giant salamander is a carnivore. They will feed on insects, mice, amphibians and small reptiles such as snakes or lizards.

Cannibalism has also been recorded in this species with some adults feeding on juveniles.

While not studied for this species it is thought that the juveniles likely feed on small invertebrates.

California Giant Salamander


North America is the native home of the California giant salamander where they can as their name suggests be found solely in the US state of California. Here they are found close to the coastline.


California giant salamanders will make their home in forests and wetlands. They rely on cold streams, mountain lakes and ponds to raise their larvae. Adults live in humid forests where they will hide under a rock or log.

They require cover within their habitat so they can lay their eggs and hide from the sun.

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Breeding season is thought to last from spring to autumn. During this time the adults will gather at streams and springs.

Their eggs will be deposited at the headwater of a mountain stream. Breeding occurs in a nest chamber which in under a log or rock. They may lay between 85 and 200 eggs singly or in a clump.

After laying the eggs the female will remain close by to defend them against predators, including adult California giant salamanders. It may take up to 7 months for the young to hatch.

Young may spend the first two to four months in their nest feeding off the yolk before going out in to the water.

Larvae begin their life in the water. When the weather becomes warm enough they will metamorphose from a larvae in to a land living adult. In some areas the weather does not warm enough to allow this and they become sexually mature but remain in the water. It will take up to two years for them to complete this transition.

Behind the head the larvae have feathery gills. A fin is present along the top and bottom of the tail.

Maturity is reached within 2 to 3 years.


Land dwelling adults seek shelter under a log or rock.

At night the land living adults will forage on the forest floor. While foraging they may be seen crossing the road.

Adults are equipped with strong claws for digging in the soil.

When threatened the California giant salamander will produce vocalizations including a bark or a chirp.

California Giant Salamander

Predators and Threats

Humans pose a threat to the California giant salamander through siltation in streams, development and habitat fragmentation. Their forest habitats are the subject of logging efforts. Where these activities occur the amount of surviving larvae is often reduced.

At present no data is available to determine their exact population size but the species is considered to be locally abundant.

Quick facts

California giant salamanders are one of four species which make up the group known as the Pacific giant salamanders and this name is also commonly applied to them.

California Giant Salamander

Photo Credits

Top and Bottom

Greg Schechter, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle One

Public Domain

Middle Two

Mat Honan, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Jackson, T.,2011. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Animals, Birds & Fish of North America. 1st ed. Leicestershire: Lorenz Books

Geoffrey Hammerson, Bruce Bury. 2004. Dicamptodon ensatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T59080A11866765. Downloaded on 05 July 2021.

AmphibiaWeb 2018 Dicamptodon ensatus: California Giant Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jul 4, 2021. 2021. California Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon ensatus) –. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 5 July 2021]. 2021. California Giant Salamander | Curbstone Valley. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 5 July 2021].

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