Eastern Red-Backed Salamander

Fact File

Scientific Name: Plethodon cinereus

Classification: Amphibian

Size: Up to 5 inches

Distribution: This is the most abundant salamander in Virginia and is found throughout most of the state, except for the Middle Peninsula, extreme southwest Virginia, and some areas on the Southside. Inhabits just about any forested habitat with thick leaf litter and moist soil.

Identifying Characteristics

The body is dark gray to black with a reddish stripe on the back and tail. In some individuals the stripe may be absent or vary in color from yellowish to orange. The sides of the head, body and tail have small white spots or flecks. Belly has a salt-and-pepper pattern.

Did You Know?

In some eastern U.S. forests, there may be more than 2,000 Red-backed Salamanders inhabiting about 2.5 acres (one hectare).

Role in the Web of Life

Mating primarily occurs in the fall with a secondary event in the spring. Females deposit an average of 3–11 eggs in late spring and early summer with hatching occurring approximately 6 weeks later. Adults feed on a wide variety of invertebrates and may occasionally cannibalize eggs and juveniles.


Species appears to be secure in Virginia.

Last updated: February 22, 2021