If you decide to venture into the redwoods on a rainy day, you may be rewarded with the pleasure of crossing paths with one of the redwood forest’s most charismatic creatures – newts! There are three species of newts that can be found in the coast redwood forest, and they love to make an appearance during wet weather.
The three species are often difficult to tell apart. The red-bellied newt (Taricha rivularis) is more unique in that, like its name suggests, their underside is colored a shade of red and their eyes tend to be darker in color. The California newt (Taricha torosa) and the rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa) can be much harder to identify. Each of them have a yellow to orange colored belly, but their eyes can be the feature that distinguishes them. Rough-skinned newts have yellow irises and dark eyelids, where California newts tend to have lighter coloration around their eyes.
All members of the genus Taricha, including these three species found in the redwood forest, have a unique defense mechanism. When threatened, they will secrete a poisonous neurotoxin from their skin called tetrodotoxin. If the toxin is ingested it can be fatal to many predators, possibly even humans if eaten in a high enough quantity.
From February to May, these clumsy and slow moving newts migrate to water sources to in search of mates. During this period, and especially during bouts of rain, it may be hard to avoid these eager travelers if you’re wandering in the redwoods near streams or rivers. If you’re in the Bay Area, Butano State Park in San Mateo County is a known hot spot for these funny creatures, with Little Butano Creek running through the heart of the park. If you’re further north, Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve in Mendocino County is also another great place to spot them.
So grab your rain jacket and plan your own visit to see newts in action!