I was relieved to find that I had not severed this slender salamander in two while digging out a Red Hot Poker. I immediately thought it was a California Slender Salamander because that is the only slender salamander I am acquainted with from back in my UC Santa Cruz days. I have fond memories of our Herpetology instructor sending us out to roam the campus for herps and finding slender salamanders easily. I use to take my nephew, Richard, out salamander hunting in Annadale State Park and always found Batrachoseps attenuatus (One of the first Latin names I ever learned that will stick with me forever because of great associated memories, like Symphoricarpos rotundifolius and Eptesicus fuscus). I have not seen slender salamanders outside of the temperate rain forests of California’s coast, until today.
Using the California Herps website I see that this one is likely the Hell Hollow Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps diabolicus (#3 on the map). For perspective, an adult is roughly 1 – 1/4 to 1-7/8 inches long (3.2 – 4.7 cm) from snout to vent. Teeny tiny!
I researched a bit to remind myself of what I know about these tiny creatures and learn a few new things. Looking at the California Herps and AmphibiaWeb websites I see that these Hell Hollow Slender Salamanders are found here in Mariposa County. They are named for Hell Hollow along the lower portions of the Merced River. I am noting that this sounds like a place that beckons for an adventurer. Apparently this slender salamander has long legs and large hands and feet for a slender salamander. Batrachoseps, part of the lungless salamander family, breath through its skin which requires that it live in moist areas on land and only move around when there is high humidity. The Hell Hollow Slender Salamander is endemic to the foothills of the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. In other words, it is found no were else on Earth. Pretty cool! In 1998 one species, Batrachoseps relictus, was split into 4 including the Hell Hollow Slender Salamander. It seems that much has been learned about these salamanders in the last 20 years but there is still more to learn. Everything I read pointed out that they seem largely absent from areas of suitable habitat and uncommon where found. And due to a dearth of clearly identifiable specimens location is not necessarily reliable for identification. So perhaps it is a California Slender Salamander?
Either way, I have posted before about my endeavors to identify what I have stumbled upon and in the end all that really matters to me is that a slender salamander is residing out there adding to the wild outside my door.