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Cheat Mountain Salamander


The Cheat Mountain salamander is found in West Virginia and nowhere else on Earth. It is a relatively small salamander, reaching a maximum length of four inches. Its back is black to dark brown and is usually marked with brassy flecks; the underside is a uniform dark gray. Its tail is shorter than the combined length of its head and body, a feature that helps to distinguish it from similar-appearing species. Because of its limited range and potential habitat loss, this species was placed on the federal threatened species list in 1989.

The Cheat Mountain salamander lives in cool forests in the higher elevations of five counties: Grant, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, and Tucker. During the day, these salamanders hide under logs or rocks, inside rotten logs, or underground. At night, they come out to hunt for their prey—small invertebrates such as mites and insects. Females lay small clusters of eggs in cavities found under rocks or in rotten logs; the eggs are suspended from the ceiling of the cavity by a short stalk. Like all members of the group known as woodland salamanders, the Cheat Mountain salamander has no lungs and must breathe through its skin. For this reason, the skin of these animals must remain moist. These salamanders may remain underground for extended periods during dry weather.

Written by Craig W. Stihler


  1. Green, N. B. & T. K. Pauley. Amphibians & Reptiles in West Virginia. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987.