Miscellaneous FAQ

But the pet shop told me ___________________!!??

Most pet store employees, even those who understand fish and reptiles, do not know how to care for a newt or salamander. Most will take a guess based on knowledge of other animals rather than saying "I don't know". Remember, pet stores primarily want to sell you stuff. Their employees are rarely experts. You will need other resources to find out what you need to know.

I don't want my animal anymore; can I just let it free outside?

No. First, your animal is probably accustomed to captivity and cannot survive in the wild. It will either die of starvation or get eaten by something rather quickly. Second, releasing a captive animal is bad for the environment. It could spread diseases that may kill local amphibians. Third, it is illegal. Most states have laws against abandoning pets and/or against releasing any animals previously kept captive.

If you really feel you can't deal with your animal any longer, it is usually best to find it a new owner. Try taking it to a pet shop or place an ad at the Caudata.org Forum.

Where can I obtain different species of newts or salamanders?

Keep in mind that nearly all newts and most salamanders at pet shops are taken from the wild. Thus obtaining newts and salamanders from pet retailers will usually contribute to the harvest of these animals from the wild. The exception to this is the axolotl, which is always captive bred. A few other captive bred species are beginning to appear in the pet trade, but be careful what you wish for.

Make personal contact with people who keep a variety of newts or sals. They may know who is breeding certain types. Keep in mind that most "different" species are alive as captives because they are being captive bred, which is a labor-intensive process. Thus, CB (captive bred) newts and salamanders may be relatively expensive, and the breeder may want to know that you are a responsible keeper before they will sell to you. There are often ads for captive-bred species in the Caudata.org Forum.

You may have the option to collect an abundant native species. In many ways, collecting an animal from the wild is better than buying a wild-caught animal from a retailer. Be sure to find out what species are legal to collect. Some states in the US forbid collecting any wild animals, including amphibians. Some require a fishing license. Before you collect, contact your local Fish and Game department to find out about your state laws. Do not buy animals that you suspect might have been illegally collected.

Ambystoma opacum in snow
Even if you find a salamander in snow, this does not indicate that it needs help.

I found a salamander/newt outside. Should I keep it?

Maybe, but probably not. Salamanders turn up in odd places, but do not always need help. Even if the salamander is out in very cold weather, this does not necessarily indicate that it needs to be rescued. Salamanders are often active in very cold weather, even snow.

If you do decide to take it in, you'll need to identify the species and verify that it is legal to keep that particular species in your state/country. Then you need to make sure you can provide the right foods, habitat, and temperature to keep it alive. Captivity poses risk, and those risks are sometimes greater than the risks it faced outdoors.

My newt or salamander escaped. What should I do?

Sooner or later, this happens to almost everyone that keeps newts and salamanders. Look in every dark place starting in the room it escaped in. Check your vents too. If you donít find it, place pieces of foil all over the house with water so it can stay wet. You may be able to hear the animal crawl onto the foil. If it's been over a day, an aquatic animal is probably dead. Make the tank lid more secure to prevent the escape of any remaining animals. See Preventing Escape.

A pet store near me doesnít take good care of their newts/salamanders. What should I do?

First, remember that buying the animals doesn't help. When you buy the animals you are giving the store money to buy MORE animals and sending the message that this item sells well. You are technically sentencing MORE animals to the torturous cruelty of the store. Start instead by writing a letter to the storeís manager. DO NOT BE OVERLY ACCUSING. If you have a harsh tone they will just ignore it. Instead, tell them nicely that things are being done wrong and provide them with correct information; offer help if they need it. Explain that if things are not improved then you will have to seek out authorities to aid in the correction of the problem.

If they do not correct the problem after this, contact your local animal control, animal shelter, humane society, etc. To get things done faster, get some other people you know who feel the same way to also write. Send all letters separately. Explain WHAT is wrong there and HOW it should be done and HOW they were not willing to correct it.

If that does not work, spread the word, get more people to write and complain. Write to your local newspaper and tell them. They might publish an editorial. The more people that know the less likely the store will continue its practices and will find themselves forced to change.

Where can I find out about a question that is not answered here?


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