Get To Know The

Green Salamander

While the City of Norton is famous for being home to the fabled Woodbooger, the City is also home to another creature, one lesser-known than the Woodbooger but just as fascinating. The Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus) can be found in and around the city’s property on High Knob and is one of the most interesting and unique salamanders in Southwest Virginia. While Wise County and the City of Norton have upwards of 20 salamander species within their borders – making this one of the planet’s highest concentrations of salamander diversity – the Green Salamander is the only species in Virginia that is “arboreal,” meaning that it climbs trees. During summer months, these creatures ascend high into the forest canopy, where their bright green color helps to blend in with leaves and lichens. Unique, suction cup-like toe tips help Green Salamanders climb to heights well above the other species found in our area.

Like the Woodbooger,the Green Salamander is a rare creature that is sensitive to habitat disturbance – meaning that its presence in Norton is particularly special. As a result, the city has deemed the Flag Rock Recreation Area a Green Salamander Sanctuary, protecting these salamanders’ habitat. And like the city’s Woodbooger Sanctuary, this Green Salamander Sanctuary is one-of-a-kind – the only town or city property given special designation for this species in the country. This species is so special, in fact, that researchers from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and elsewhere visit Norton just to learn more about this unique species.

Green Salamanders are abundant on the mountain above Norton, so chances are high you may stumble across one during a visit above the city. If you do, consider yourself lucky: Green Salamanders are a species that not even many trained herpetologists get to see. If you run across a Green Salamander’s path, simply enjoy it at a distance without handling it or otherwise disturbing it in any way. Salamanders can be harmed by chemicals on humans’ skin and may not respond well to being handled, and Green Salamanders in particular do not cope well with captivity and need the unique mix of environmental conditions on High Knob to survive. It’s fine to take pictures without disturbing the animal, though, and then simply let it go on its way.