By Marlayna Kirby
While leading groups through the forests of Little Basin I often stop to admire the newts living in the shallow creek or wandering along the forest floor. Rough Skinned Newts (Taricha granulosa) are an interesting amphibian inhabitant of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Both children and adults alike find them fascinating.

When I bring groups to the streams, not only do we look at the adult stage of newts, but also search for the larval stage as well. In their larval stages newts resemble a frog tadpole. However, newt tadpoles have four legs and feathery external gills found along their neck. The Junior Rangers and I often see them along the edges of the creek. To find them we look very closely and carefully; the larvae are quite small.
The cute wide-eyed appearance of these creatures is deceiving, Rough skinned newts are chock full of toxins. These toxins appear in every stage of the newt’s life cycle. Even the eggs contain the highly poisonous chemicals. When threatened, a newt displays it’s toxic nature by curling back it’s head and tail, revealing a bright orange underbelly.
On land these animals seems to be slow and clumsy, but once submerged in water one sees their quick and stealthy nature. Rough skinned newts are often indistinguishable from the bottom of a muddy creek. Their skin resembles the color and texture of muddy pebbles. The best method for observing newts is staying quiet and still. I find it peaceful to sit quietly and watch for newts moving slowly through the water.
"Rough-skinned Newt - Taricha Granulosa." Rough-skinned Newt. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2015