Black and Yellow Salamander: What Is It Called and Is It Dangerous?

Written by Kristin Hitchcock
Published: March 4, 2023
© TomSchr/
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The black and yellow salamander is also called the spotted salamander or yellow-spotted salamander. As the name suggests, they’re mostly black with yellow spots. They’re native to Canada and the eastern United States, ranging from Georgia and Texas to Nova Scotia.

This species of salamander is the only one that has this black-and-yellow coloration. Therefore, if you see a black and yellow salamander, it will probably fall into this species. Luckily, this species isn’t dangerous in the least.

Physical Appearance

A black yellow spotted Fire Salamander
A black and yellow Salamander.

©Marek R. Swadzba/

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The yellow-spotted salamander grows to around 10 inches long. They’re very stout and wide, with very wide snouts. They’re mostly black. However, they can also be bluish-grey or dark green. Their main color can vary by the area they live in.

Along the salamander’s back are two rows of uneven, yellow spots. They run from the salamander’s head to the tip of their tail. The spots can sometimes be more orange than yellow, especially on the salamander’s head.

Their underside is pink or grey. Females are typically larger than males and have brighter spots. However, it can be challenging to tell the two genders apart.

Habitat and Where to Find Them

The spotted salamander prefers to stay in forests with ponds. They require pools for breeding. These can be on the ground, in seasonal water collections, or in large plant leaves. Because vernal pools (collections of water on plant leave) dry often, salamanders prefer them. This drying kills bacteria and other larvae, which helps the salamander larvae thrive.

Salamander group around the same breeding area. The groups can be genetically distinct from the surrounding populations, which is one reason why this species can vary a bit in appearance.


Black-yellow salamander in the mountains.
The salamander can regrow back many body parts, including brain parts.


Spotted salamanders spend most of their time underground. They only come above ground to eat or breed. During the colder months, they experience a period of dormancy. However, this isn’t true hibernation, as salamanders aren’t mammals. Instead, this process is called brumation.

Therefore, these salamanders stay underground for months when the weather is cold. They don’t emerge after winter until March to May.

To protect themselves, these salamanders have several potential lines of defense. They often hide in leaf litter or burrows, where predators cannot get them. Their tail “pops off” when they feel threatened, which acts as a distraction for predators. They excrete a milky, white substance if they are bit or scratched.

Like many salamanders, this species has great regenerative abilities. The salamander can regrow back many body parts, including brain parts. Therefore, if they are injured, they can often survive. This requires tons of energy, so the salamander eats more to support the new growth.

Younger salamanders spend most of their time hiding near the bottom of pools. The larvae occupy vegetation where they can hide. If predators are around, they will lower their activity.

These salamanders follow ancestral trails to breeding pools and for migration. They often make this journey without visual cues, as they travel with low light levels. Therefore, scientists are a bit confused about how salamanders make this journey. Evidence shows that they learn landmarks, especially when associated with food. The salamanders may learn that some landmarks are associated with different resources.


Salanders are opportunistic feeders, which means that they will eat practically anything that’s available. They consume bugs and other ground creatures, such as snails, millipedes, insects, algae, slugs, and spiders. They’ll also consume smaller species of salamanders. Adult spotted salamanders have sticky tongues, which help them catch food.


Beautiful lizard Fire salamander in water of a spring stream. An amphibian in a native habitat. Spring, the reproduction period at amphibia
Black and yellow salamanders travel to breeding pools when humidity and temperatures rise


The Salamander has a more complicated lifecycle than other animals. These salamanders hide underground or under thick leaf litter for most of their lives. It’s these areas where they are safe from predators.

However, they travel to breeding pools when the humidity and temperature rise. They all tend to journey simultaneously, with hundreds to thousands of salamanders arriving at the pool simultaneously. They mate in the rain in breeding pools – often the same ones they were born in. Usually, one female lays a clutch of about 100 eggs that cling to underwater plants.

Females tend to migrate slower than males, though. Females are less sensitive to temperature than males.

The egg masses produced are jelly-like and cling to just about everything they touch. The eggs the salamander lay do differ a little bit, however. One type of egg is clear with a water-soluble protein. The other type is white and contains a non-water-soluble protein. The reasons for these differences are unknown. However, it is thought to help in differing waters, which may have different nutritional qualities.

When laying eggs, the adults-only stay in the water briefly. The eggs hatch after one to two months, depending on the temperature. It seems that the eggs have a relationship with green algae. The jelly substance around the eggs protects them, but it can also inhibit oxygen diffusion (which the salamanders need to develop).

The algae provide increased oxygen and extra nutrients through photosynthesis. It also removes nitrogen from the eggs, which helps the salamanders develop. In exchange, the salamander embryos provide extra carbon dioxide, which helps the algae.

Once hatched, the larva are light brown to yellow with external gills and smaller spots. After two to four months, the larvae loos their gills and leave the water. After leaving the water, salamanders can live for up to 32 years. With that said, these salamanders are eaten by skunks, turtles, snakes, and raccoons. They’re also captured by humans, who sell them in the pet trade.

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