Gresham's rare amphibians continue to thrive
One of the rarest animals found in Gresham also happens to be the slimiest.
In 2008 a team of AmeriCorps volunteers were restoring a natural area along Kelly Creek with the city of Gresham. As they cleared out vines, one volunteer found a creature that looked like a "worm with tiny legs." An astonished biologist identified the animal — an extremely rare Oregon slender salamander.
For decades experts thought the Oregon salamander only lived in a pristine habitat up in the Cascade mountains, which would have given them one of the smallest ranges for any animal species in the world. But the discovery at Kelly Creek turned into something of a wildlife coup for the city.
A wider search discovered slender salamanders all across Gresham — from backyards to Powell Butte.
Katie Holzer, Gresham's watershed scientist and an environmental specialist, estimates the salamanders have likely lived here for hundreds of years. They are found under logs, piles of rotting leaves, patches of vines, plywood, and cinderblock walls.
The amphibians spend most of their life underground, but will emerge when it's warm and wet to hunt down bugs and slugs. The Oregon slender salamander has a bright red pattern on its back, and when frightened curls into a coil for protection.
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