Come into the cozy warmth of the Cheney Discovery Center – right by the tram tour station – and discover a tiny new world. Reptiles like the gopher snake, amphibians like the Western toad, and the banana slug, king of slimy invertebrates.
WHAT: Large with oval-shaped glands behind their eyes. Gray to green with a light stripe down the back. Their “warts” are tinged with red and surrounded by black. WHERE: Ponds and small lakes or other water with abundant plant life. SIZE: Length: up to 5 inches. EATS: Insects, small invertebrates. BABIES: Breeding from April-May. Eggs are laid in long gelatinous strings into shallow water. Tadpoles emerge after a few days; metamorphism takes around 2 months. STATUS: Species of Concern. FUN FACTS: When frightened, the Western toad can make itself bigger by inflating air sacs inside its body. This allows it to wedge itself tightly into rock walls or burrows, making it difficult for a predator to extract it.
When mating, the male uses its clasping thumb to stimulate the female to extrude 4,000-8,000 eggs in long gelatinous strings, which he fertilizes externally.
Pituophis catenifer catenifer
WHAT: The Pacific gopher snake is beige to light brown, with brown to black blotches covering its body and a dark band across its head. WHERE: Mountains to lowlands, dry deserts to open conifer forests across the U.S. SIZE: 2.5-7 ft. EATS: Small to medium rodents, birds, chicks, eggs and other reptiles. BABIES: Breeding from March-May results in 2-22 eggs laid in August. Hatchlings appear in late fall after a 50-85 day incubation. STATUS: General: Common. Washington: State monitored. FUN FACTS: The gopher snake is a good tree climber that actively searches for prey in burrows, dens and rocks.
When alarmed, it coils into an S-shape, hisses loudly and vibrates its tail rapidly on the ground to mimic a rattlesnake.
WHAT: Bright yellow, or sometimes green, brown, spotted or white, the Pacific banana slug is the second-largest land slug in the world. WHERE: Moist forest floors along the Pacific coast. SIZE: Length 9.8 in.; weight 4.1 oz. EATS: Leaves, animal droppings and dead plants. BABIES: Breeding year-round. Slugs are hermaphrodites (can change sex), and after exchanging sperm with a mate they lay up to 75 translucent eggs (hiding them in logs or leaves). Then they abandon the clutch. STATUS: Common. FUN FACTS: Banana slugs are decomposers: they eat dead organic matter and recycle it into soil humus.
They especially love eating mushrooms, and spread the spores as they excrete.
They’re slow movers. Banana slugs travel at 6 ½ inches per minute – that’s .006 miles per hour.
WHAT: A stocky brown salamander with a bright orange to yellow underside, rounded snouts and rough skin. WHERE: Moist forests, lakes, ponds and wetlands throughout the west coast of the U.S. and British Columbia. SIZE: 4-7 inches
EATS: Worms, insects and other invertebrates. BABIES: Breeding at different times depending on location, newts lay single eggs hidden in vegetation. They hatch in 5-10 weeks, and larvae metamorphose when around 1-3 inches. STATUS: Secure. FUN FACTS: When threatened, rough-skinned newts arch their heads toward their tails, which reveals their bright orange underside to warn predators that they are toxic.
Newts produce toxin inside their skin, rather than secreting it, so it is most dangerous when eaten. They can be safely handled but wash hands thoroughly afterwards.
Not many vertebrates can survive eating a rough-skinned newt – but the common garter snake is one that can, since the snakes can tell whether the newt’s toxin level is too high to feed on.