The brief answer to this question is yes. Salamanders are poisonous. All species of salamanders are known to be poisonous. However, before you start getting worried, it is important to note that there is a significant difference between poisonous and venomous.
A poisonous animal, such as a salamander, only poisons when it is touched with bare hands or eaten. This is because it is only in these two ways that the poison it secretes can reach humans.
Since salamanders are not a common delicacy anywhere in the world, the one-way salamander poisoning frequently occurs is when one touches the amphibian and then touches their mouth or their eyes.
In contrast, a venomous animal, such as the black mamba, is one that injects its venom directly into a predator to protect itself or into prey to subdue it. The venom is often injected through a bite or a sting. MOST salamanders are NOT venomous; they are poisonous. And unless you handle them directly with your bare hands, they will not poison you.
What to Know About Poisonous Salamanders
As mentioned above, most salamanders are poisonous. They secrete poison in granular or parotid glands. Scientists believe that salamanders are capable of secreting poison because they somehow acquire or ingest very strong bacteria from the environment.
Most salamanders release their poison aka toxins over their skin. This is why handling a salamander with bare hands is not advised. Scientists believe that the release of toxins is a method of self-defense. This is because it has been found out that younger and more vulnerable salamanders release even toxic poison compared to adult ones.
The toxicity of poison released by salamanders varies from species to species and across populations. Some salamanders secrete very mild toxins while others secrete very dangerous toxins.
All Salamanders of the genus Taricha secrete tetrodotoxin which is one of the most dangerous natural toxins. The most toxic genus Taricha salamander is the Rough-Skinned Newt.
What to Know About Venomous Salamanders
As mentioned in the introductory section, most salamanders are poisonous and not venomous. However, there are few species that are actually venomous. In other words, they inject venom into anything that threatens them by touching them.
Known venomous salamander species include those of the genus Tylototriton and those of the genus Pleurodeles. These salamanders have got sharp ribs running down their bodies. If you grasp them suddenly or touch them unknowingly they will push out their ribs to sting you.
As the salamanders push their sharp ribs out of their skin, they produce dangerous toxins that are delivered straight into the piercing skin of the person or animal holding them. The pain from the ‘stinging’ and the subsequent effects of the toxins in the body is usually enough to deter any human or predator from touching them again.
Because venomous salamanders proactively deliver their toxins, they are said to be venomous rather than poisonous.
Known venomous salamanders include the Sharp Ribbed Salamander. It is normally easy to tell a venomous salamander by its sharp ribs.
Can a Poisonous Salamander Kill You?
The answer to the question “Can a poisonous salamander kill you?” is probably what you’ve wanted to know all along. The answer is no; it is highly unlikely that a poisonous salamander can kill you.
While most salamanders are poisonous, they usually do not seek out humans and, therefore, they rarely poison them. This is because they are shy animals and they like hiding rather than facing humans or predators.
However, almost all salamanders known to man will poison you if you touch them because they secrete toxins on their skin. So under no circumstances should you ever touch or handle a salamander with your bare hands. This is unless of course you are a scientist doing research and you’ve got vinyl gloves on.
If you do accidentally or intentionally grasp or touch a salamander, the poison will only get into your body if you touch your eyes or your mouth with the poison. If the poison gets into your system, it will most likely only cause you discomfort or irritation. That said, if the poison is very toxic, it can cause you serious illness or death.
This is why it is advisable to only watch wild salamanders at a distance. If you want to keep a salamander as a pet, you need to buy one that is captive-bred. This is because captive-bred salamanders are known to be less poisonous than wild ones. However, even if you get a captive-bred salamander, you should learn as much as possible about handling it before bringing it home. This is important for your safety and for its safety.
While I have stated that a poisonous salamander is highly unlikely to kill you, a venomous one is very likely to kill you. As pointed out in the section above this one, venomous salamanders have sharp ribs that they can use to pierce your skin and deliver a dangerous neurotoxin which can kill you. The toxin released by venomous salamanders is the same one released by pufferfish and venomous octopuses. So it is very dangerous.
Therefore, make it your mission to avoid touching wild salamanders. And if you get a captive-bred one, learn as much as possible about handling it before bringing it home.
One More Reason Why You Should Not Touch Salamanders
You now know salamanders are dangerous because they can either be poisonous or venomous. So the number one reason why you should not touch them is that their poison or venom can harm you. In addition to this reason, you also should not touch salamanders because you can actually harm them.
Yes, you read that right. Your touch can seriously harm a salamander. How? Well, salamanders, like most amphibians, have got a thin and highly permeable skin that is very absorbent. Therefore, when touched by human hands, they absorb whatever is on the hands very quickly.
The unfortunate thing is that most of our hands have got traces of chemicals such as lotions, soaps, sanitizers, insect repellants, and sunblock products. Therefore, when we touch salamanders, they absorb these chemicals very quickly.
While these chemicals are harmless to us, they are very harmful to salamanders and can even kill them. And even when our hands do not have traces of these chemicals, the oils and salts our sweat glands produce can also cause serious harm to salamanders. Therefore, you should not touch a salamander using your bare hands unless your intention is to harm them.
If you really need to touch a pet salamander, you should wash your hands thoroughly with soap and then make sure there are no traces of soap left on your hands. Alternatively, you should wear vinyl gloves. This will protect you from the salamander’s poison and will protect the salamander from any chemicals on your hands.
Poisonous Salamanders FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What Is the Most Poisonous Salamander?
The most poisonous salamander is the Rough-Skinned Newt. It has got grainy and rough skin and it is usually dark with an orange underside. The salamander is usually identified by its rough skin because not many salamander species have got rough skin.
It is found throughout Western North America including in places such as California, British Columbia, and Alaska. The salamander likes spending its time both on land and on water. It can stay on water throughout its life.
It usually avoids humans so there is very little risk of humans coming into contact with it. However, if you do come into contact with it, you should seek medical help immediately as sometimes it takes a bit of time before the negative effects of its toxin kick in.
Do Salamanders Bite?
Yes, they do. They are shy animals but they can bite you. As mentioned in the post, salamanders usually do not seek out humans because they are very docile. So chances of them biting you are very slim. However, they can bite you if they mistake your hand for food when you are feeding them or petting them. Therefore, you should be careful when feeding them or when petting them.
While salamanders can bite, their bite is not poisonous or venomous. It will not hurt you much. It will probably leave some light marks but it will not hurt you. It will also not release any poison or venom into your skin or body. So in case you get bitten by a salamander, you should not worry much. You should only worry if you are ‘stung’ by the sharp ribs of a Sharp-Ribbed Newt or if you come into contact with a Rough-Skinned Newt or any other poisonous salamander.
Are Salamanders Good Pets?
Yes, they are. They are very cool and very interesting pets. However, keeping a salamander as a pet is like keeping a snake as a pet. In other words, they are pets to look at behind an enclosure; not pets to hold and interact with. This is because they are poisonous. Even if the captive-bred ones are less poisonous, petting them, playing with them, and holding them are things that are not recommended.
Therefore, if you are looking for a pet that you can just look at and admire, you should go ahead and get one. But if you are looking for a pet that you can hold and interact with, you are better off looking for something else.
What is The Best Salamander to keep as a Pet?
The best Salamander to keep as a pet is the Tiger Salamander. This is because it is quite attractive and relatively easy to care for. It usually does not grow very big so it can be accommodated even in a 20-gallon enclosure.
While the Tiger Salamander is regarded by most people as a very exciting pet, it is poisonous just like other salamanders. It secretes toxins in its skin and they can affect you if you grasp or touch it and then touch your eyes or mouth. However, it is a creature that is very docile and by learning as much as possible about handling it, you can safely take care of it for many years without coming into contact with it.
If you take good care of a Tiger salamander, it can live up to 20 years.
What Type of Enclosure Do Salamanders Need?
Salamanders usually grow to about 10 centimeters in size. Therefore, they need a big tank to explore and play around in. So if you are planning to keep a salamander as a pet, you should get a tank that is at least 20 gallons in size.
Salamanders are amphibians and cold-blooded. As amphibians, salamanders need a permanent water source to make sure their skins stay moist so that they can absorb oxygen from the environment and cool off when it is too hot. They also need a land habitat where they can get on to get warm and avoid freezing. For this reason, if you are planning to get a salamander as a pet, you should make its enclosure semi-aquatic with a water feature (e.g. a small basin) and a dry land habitat. The land habitat should at least have a basking platform with a heat lamp several inches above it to ensure your salamander can get maximum heat when it needs it.
Salamanders also like hiding spaces. Therefore, you should add plants, rocks, and hiding spaces in their enclosure to make sure they can hide if they feel the need to.
What Types of Food Do Salamanders Eat?
Salamanders are hunters of insects and arthropods. In other words, they like catching and eating insects and spiders. The best foods for captive salamanders include slugs, crickets, snails, and worms. Live worms and crickets are easy to find in serious pet stores. The other types of foods you will have to find for yourself.
In addition to food, salamanders need fresh water. You should always have fresh water in a container in your salamander’s enclosure to ensure it can drink when it wants to. Replace the water daily to ensure it is clean and safe for your pet to consume.
What to Do if You Encounter a Salamander?
If you encounter a salamander in the wild or in nature, you should leave it where it is. It is not right to capture wild animals and hold them captive because it contributes to their extinction. If you encounter a salamander in your house, you should find a net to capture it and take it outside. You should not hold it with your hands because it could be very poisonous.
What is the Most Interesting Thing about Salamanders?
Salamanders can regrow limbs! This enables them to survive when they are attacked and maimed.
All salamanders are poisonous; they secrete poison in their skin. Their poisons have varying levels of toxicity based on their species. A handful of them are also venomous. So it is a good idea to avoid touching salamanders because they will either poison you or inject you with venom. The Rough-Skinned Newt is the most poisonous salamander, while the Sharp-Ribbed Newt is the most venomous salamander.