How to Catch a Salamander in Your Backyard

Salamanders are cute creatures that are harmless to both animals and people. Although they are a little sensitive and very unique, they can make a great pet. You can easily harm a salamander by handling it, so correctly knowing how to catch a salamander in your backyard is key.

For another animal you can catch from your backyard, check out our article on catching a caterpillar.

About Salamanders

If this is your first time capturing a salamander, you will want to learn about it first. Knowing their behavior will help you to catch it without harming it.

Salamanders are amphibians with long, slender bodies and long tails. They somewhat resemble a cross between a lizard and a frog.

Not all salamanders are alike; some have four legs while some only have two. Some salamanders have lungs, some have gills, and others breathe through their skin.

Habitat

The salamander’s habitat varies depending on which type of salamander it is.

Newts spend their time on land, so they have dry and bumpy skin. Sirens have both gills and lungs but spend most of their time in the water.

No matter which species of salamander you hope to capture, you’ll need to have a nearby water source, however. Every species of salamander needs to keep their skin moist and will have any offspring in water.

Habits

Salamanders are nocturnal and are usually more active during cooler times of the day. They hang out under rocks or up in trees to keep cool during the day, then come out at night to eat.

Keep this in mind if you plan on netting a salamander yourself. For a better chance of catching one, you’ll want to be there during active periods.

Offspring

It’s possible that you capture a salamander that is pregnant, though they are only pregnant for a few days. While many salamanders lay eggs, certain species give birth to live offspring.

Some salamanders can live up to 55 years! If you want a pet that will be with you for the long haul, you may find that in your salamander.

Capturing the Salamander

Step One: Gather Trapping Equipment

Trapping a salamander in your backyard can be reasonably easy with the right equipment. Below are two options you can choose from to capture the salamander.

Option One:

The first option requires a little construction but allows you to leave the trap out to come back to.

  • 24 ft. of 18-inch wide aluminum window screening or 15 ft. of 28-inch wide screening for the cylinders
  • 15 ft. of 36-inch fiberglass screening to create the funnels 
  • 25 ft. of small rope for the handles
  • Utility knife and scissors
  • Stapler with 1000 staples
  • A jar with some water inside to contain the salamander. Make sure the jar has holes in the lid so the salamander can breathe.

Option Two:

Option two is great for anyone who wants to capture it themselves, rather than using a trap. Just be careful not to injure the salamander if using this method.

  • A small net to capture the salamander
  • A jar to contain the salamander, same as in option one

Although not necessary, bringing a glowstick or outdoor light can work as a bait to trap amphibians like salamanders.

Step Two: Construct a Funnel Trap

If you’ve gathered the equipment for option one above, it is time to construct your funnel trap. You can purchase a pre-done funnel trap if you like. However, it may not be as effective as a homemade version.

  • First, cut a rectangular piece of the aluminum window screening using scissors or a utility knife to create the cylinders.
  • Roll the piece of screening into a cylinder that is 18 inches long and 8 inches in diameter, leaving a 1-inch lip on top.
  • Staple the 1-inch lip along the base of the rim where it meets the cylinder screening. 
  • Cut two funnels from the fiberglass screening with a 9 inch opening on the wide end, and 1¾ inch opening on the narrow end of both pieces. Roll the wide ends of the funnels over the outside edges of the cylinder and staple every ½ inch with the stapler.
  • Attach a 30″ string handle to the lip and attach it with duct tape to both ends of the 1″ aluminum lip.

Step Three: Lay Traps

Most salamanders live near a water source because their skin needs to stay moist. If you have a pond or swamp that you know salamanders frequent, that would be your best bet to capture one.

Place your trap near the bottom of the water source during winter months. In late spring or early summer, place the trap in wooded areas with stagnant bodies of water nearby.

After about 24 hours, check to see if you’ve caught any. You may find that you’ve caught something other than a salamander and can return those to the wild.

If your trap is empty, leave it where it is and continue checking until you get a salamander. When checking, bring a plastic bag or jar to catch and transfer the salamander safely.

Step Four: Use a Net

If you’d rather actively catch a salamander instead of using a funnel trap, check the same areas you’d use traps. Using a glow stick or outdoor light can work as an effective bait to lure the salamander in.

Wear tall, waterproof pants or a pair of waders so you can walk into the water. Sweep the net through the water at a downward angle toward the bottom of the pond.

Once you catch a salamander, transfer it to the same jar, you would if you set traps.

Step Five Check its Health

Once you’ve gotten the salamander, first check its health before you take it home. You’ll want a healthy salamander that you know isn’t going to die or possibly introduce any diseases to other salamanders you have (if any).

Here are some indications that the salamander is healthy:

  • Plump (not bloated)
  • No visible rib, abdominal, or hip bones
  • Clear skin without any discolored patches or cuts
  • Alert and clear eyes
  • No secretions
  • No inflammation

If everything looks good, then congrats! Time to bring it to its new home.

Caring For Your Salamander

Keep New Salamanders Alone

If you have other salamanders, quarantine any new animals for a couple of weeks. Even if you have already checked for signs of a healthy salamander, this isn’t a guarantee that it doesn’t have any disease.

By quarantining it, you can ensure it’s healthy before introducing it to the others. Unfortunately, fungal infections are common in salamanders and are often fatal.

Keep quarantined salamanders in separate aquariums if possible.

Don’t Handle Salamanders

While you may want to pick up and enjoy holding your new pet, it’s important not to handle them unless it’s necessary. They have very absorbent skin, so sweat, salt, and heat from human skin can harm salamanders.

If it is necessary to handle the salamander, wash your hands thoroughly in hot, soapy water. Fully rinse any soap from your hands to keep residue from harming the salamander.

Place in Habitat

If your salamander continues to look healthy after a few weeks, you’re ready to move it to its new habitat. Providing a clean and entertaining environment can help it live up to 20 years!

Here is what the new habitat should include:

  • a clean aquarium (if there are multiple salamanders, you’ll need one large enough to house them all)
  • 2-3 inches of washed gravel to line the tank
  • plants (make sure you wash them first to prevent transferring diseases)
  • a source of sunlight
  • water filter
  • a lid

You’ll want to keep the habitat nice and clean to keep your salamanders healthy. Their enclosures can quickly become ridden with bacteria and fungi.

Here is what you’ll need to do to keep the salamander’s aquarium clean:

  • Although you’ll want to change the water regularly, use a water filter to help keep the water clean in between the deeper cleans.
  • When you notice that the aquarium is starting to get dirty, thoroughly disinfect the aquarium with hot and soapy water. You’ll want to repeat this process at least every couple weeks or possibly more if it gets dirty more quickly.
  • Rinse the aquarium completely to prevent any residue from harming your salamander.
  • When doing any kind of cleaning, make sure to transfer the salamander to a holding tank until you’re finished.

Feeding the Salamander

Every species of salamanders are carnivores, but will likely eat their meals slowly. Depending on the size of the salamander, the prey salamanders eat varies. Larger salamanders will need larger prey, while smaller salamanders can get by with smaller bits of food.

Here are some foods to consider feeding your salamander:

  • earthworms
  • wax worms
  • slugs
  • snails
  • crickets
  • Mysis shrimp
  • crayfish
  • fish
  • mice
  • shrews
  • spiders
  • centipedes
  • frozen brine

Final Thoughts

Before you learn how to catch a salamander in your backyard, you’ll want to do your homework. Although we gave some information about salamanders, you may want to dig deeper to learn about the species that are local to you.

If you follow the steps listed above, you should be able to enjoy up to 20 years with your new pet!