Many a person has been shocked to spot a brilliant orange-red salamander boldly stalking about the forest. After all, most salamanders are shy and retiring in the extreme; some of our most seldom seen animals. Turning over rocks and rotting logs is the usual modus operandi for finding these secretive beasts.
Efts tend to be most active during and after showers, when the forest floor is damp, as it was in West Virginia where I took this shot. The Red Eft is but one stage of the life cycle of one of our most interesting salamanders, the Red-spotted Newt, Notopthalmus virescens. After the tadpole stage comes the eft, which lives for two or three years in this stage, as we see above. Completely terrestrial, the efts ensure ready dispersal over long distances and to new breeding pools, thus constantly mixing gene pools.
Once the free-wheeling eft reaches a suitable pond, it enters the water and transforms into the adult Red-spotted Newt. In all, individuals can live for up to fifteen years. Adults look nothing like the bright Red Eft. They are greenish, have a laterally compressed tail like a muskrat, and are completely aquatic. It is also one of few salamanders often found in ponds with fish, as newts are also toxic and unpalatable to piscivorous predators. I've seen adult newts in ponds many times, and they always remind me of little fish themselves, swimming about quite gracefully.
So, if you are fortunate enough to bumble into an eft, look, but don't eat.