This attractive salamander is NOT native to Washington State, much less Whatcom County. The Eastern Newt’s native range is the eastern United States. The discovery of Eastern Newts presence was first detected in 2016. Since that date several records have been confirmed in Whatcom County.
The life history of this newt differs from our native amphibian patterns. The Eastern Newt begins life as an aquatic larvae, as does our native salamanders. However, instead of maturing into a reproducing adult salamander, it changes into a non-reproducing terrestrial eft stage. The eft form is a bright orange salamander with red dots on its body. The orange color advertises that it is toxic to eat. This is similar to our native Rough-skins newts orange belly announcing its toxicity. The eft stage can last from one to seven years. The eft stage of the Eastern Newt allows it to disperse far from its natal wetland and they can quickly expand their distribution. When the conditions are right the eft will move back into a wetland habitat and transform again into a reproducing, primarily aquatic adult. Adults are olive green, put retain the red spots. They are a long-lived species and can live 12 to 15 years.
At this point we are aware of only one area in Whatcom County where this species has become established. WCAMP has been monitoring this population since 2019 and has confirmed that they are reproducing (larvae and efts have both been found). At present we are aware of about a 2 mile area near Lake Fazon (no records from that lake to date) that has a reproducing population of this species.
How did this newt get here? We are not sure, but it is a common species in the pet trade – although it is illegal to see or keep them as pets in Washington State. There is a record of them coming into Washington State in aquatic plants in the nursery trade and it is possible that could have occurred here.
Why are we concerned? Any time a non-native species becomes established in an area where it has not evolved there is a high probability of impacts to the local ecosystems. Eastern Newts are very important to the ecological function in its native habitat, but outside its native range it could alter native forest invertebrate communities, directly or in directly affect native amphibian distribution. In its native range Eastern Newts have been infected by the disasterous BSal (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans). This horrible disease attacks salamanders and has been disastrous where it has become established. The mobile nature of this newt makes it a possible super spreader agent for the diasease. At present there are no records of BSal in Washington State, but we don’t want to have it appear.
If you find an Eastern Newt we request that you capture it , take a picture and email it to email@example.com. WCAMP will send out a volunteer to pick up the newt. We appreciate everyone’s concern and assistance in keeping Whatcom County Amphibians and Ecosystems safe.