“Blue-spotted are the number one type found at Goodenow Grove,” Lyttle said.“I think these are extra special because in Illinois, they can only be found in the northeast Chicagoland area.”
The blue-spotted salamander has been named a priority species by the nonprofit conservation organization Chicago Wilderness. Priority species are animals that are designated as especially important for the ecosystem.
Salamanders are also considered indicator species.
“If an area has salamanders, that means it also has a healthy wetland,” Lyttle said. “Salamanders are very sensitive to the environment and will not survive if the habitat is polluted.”
While Illinois has 20 different types of salamanders representing six different families, there are actually 400 species of salamanders worldwide and 70 percent of them can be found in Central and North America. Lyttle explained that this vast number of salamander types offers an assortment of cool patterns and colors.
For example, there’s the marbled salamander which has a white to silver cross pattern throughout its body, and the cave salamander (also known as the spotted-tail salamander) which is bright orange with small black spots.
Still others, like the blue-spotted salamander, have names that offer an even clearer picture as to what they might look like. For instance, the red-backed salamander has a red stripe down its back, and the zigzag salamander wears a zigzag pattern.
“You can tell herpetologists were pretty descriptive when it came to naming the species,” she said.
Even though the spotted, blue-spotted and the eastern tiger are the most common species found in Will County forest preserves, other salamander sightings have been recorded throughout the years.
According to District wildlife biologist Glen Buckner, these include eastern newts seen at Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve in 2000 and Braidwood Dunes and Savanna Nature Preserve in 2017, and small mouth salamanders found at McKinley Woods in 2014. There was even a sighting of a southern two-lined salamander that dates back to 1932.
“We actually have salamanders in many of our preserves, but not in large numbers at most locations,” Buckner said. They are, however, reported to be the most prevalent at five forest preserve sites: Goodenow Grove, Plum Valley Ravines, Messenger Woods Nature Preserve, Thorn Creek Woods, Braidwood Dunes and McKinley Woods.