Whenever you are in a survival situation, any kind of survival situation, you’ll have to do what you must if you want to survive.
You’re probably going to be uncomfortable, and you’re probably going to have to do some things that you would never consider doing otherwise. This includes eating some things, specifically certain animals, which will probably turn your stomach.
Luckily, many animals out in the world are completely safe to eat even if they don’t normally appear on our usual menu.
How about salamanders? Can you eat salamanders in a survival situation?
No, you should not eat salamanders. Though some are safe, salamanders, like most amphibians, tend to be extremely foul-tasting or actively poisonous in order to deter predators, and some possess deadly poison that could kill you if eaten.
There are many lizards on Earth that are safe to eat, but the catch is that salamanders are not lizards. They are amphibians, and closer to frogs than lizards.
In any case, many, many salamander species are toxic and should not be eaten. Learn more about salamanders and why you probably want to avoid eating them in the rest of this article.
Where are Salamanders Found?
Salamanders can be found all over the world, with most species actually living right here in North America (though there are plenty to be found across Europe and Asia and throughout South America).
Salamanders exhibit a really remarkable amount of diversity across species, with some looking very much like your typical lizard while others resemble snakes, or snakes with a single set of legs.
Salamanders have porous skin, and are prone to dehydrating so typically live in, partially in or at the very least near water sources that can keep them moist.
With so many species spread across so much of the world, if you live or travel somewhere in their range, and nowhere to look, chances are pretty good you can spot one of these creatures.
Warning: Many Salamanders are Highly Poisonous!
You probably should not eat salamanders that you find in the wild, and if you are planning on eating a “lizard” you need to be damn sure that it isn’t actually a salamander lest you accidentally poison yourself.
Most, though not all, salamander species are toxic, and can range anywhere from “mildly toxic” to lethally poisonous for human consumption.
Salamanders, like many amphibians, are capable of secreting or storing these toxins in their skin or elsewhere in their body in order to deter predators from eating them.
Toxicity is highly likely in the case of any brightly colored or boldly patterned salamander, an adaptation known as aposematic coloration.
A few species, like the rough-skinned newt found in the American Pacific Northwest, secretes concentrated tetrodotoxin, the same viciously powerful neurotoxin secreted by puffer fish and other marine wildlife.
This toxin, often denoted by the shorthand TTX, is a sodium channel-blocking compound that inhibits the firing of certain neurons in the body, thereby preventing muscles from contracting and basically paralyzing organisms affected by it.
This stuff is no joke, and it is far more poisonous and lethal than cyanide.
Ingested it will be almost certainly lethal (if you were to accidentally eat the newt), but even touching it and then getting it in your mouth or your eyes could be enough to cause problems and in some cases it can even be absorbed through abraded skin.
Symptoms of this poisoning include sweating, weakness, excessive salivation, headache, loss of coordination, seizures, paralysis, diarrhea, vomiting and respiratory failure followed by death.
Serious business, and this is just one potentially horrible outcome that awaits you should you make a mistake and eat a toxic salamander.
Yes, some salamanders are eaten for food but these species tend to be highly distinct, regionally specific and known to be safe to eat, like the giant salamander of Asia.
You will probably not have that luxury of simple and positive ID when you are in the middle of a survival situation.
Nutritional Facts about Salamanders
Nutritional information about salamander meat is scarce to nonexistent, but it is probably safe to assume that they are close to other amphibians in their nutritional content.
They can provide you with protein, some fats, and various vitamins and minerals, particularly B vitamins, iron, phosphorus and manganese.
Again, this nutrition is not going to help you if you are unfortunate enough to eat a toxic salamander! You’ll have much bigger problems then…
What Do Salamanders Taste Like?
Salamanders have been described as tasting gelatinous, somewhat greasy and similar to frogs and other amphibians, but the taste that varies depending on whether or not they are terrestrial or mostly aquatic according to their diet.
Salamanders that dined on mostly terrestrial insects tend to taste mealy or earthier, while those that eat things that live in the water tend to have more of a “marine” taste.
Can Salamanders be Eaten Raw?
No. You should never, ever eat wild caught raw meat if you have any choice whatsoever. This is because of the presence of infectious germs and parasites can make you deadly sick assuming of course the salamander is not poisonous itself.
Salamanders do have the miraculous ability to completely regrow severed body parts, but this does not mean they don’t fall victim to their own parasites and diseases.
In fact, the leading cause of salamander depopulation actually turns out to be disease much of the time, particularly a certain kind of infectious fungus in some areas while parasites plague them in others.
Even if you have a salamander that you know is safe to eat, like the aforementioned giant salamander, you still run the risk of contracting salmonella or some other germ that can give you food poisoning or worse.
If you want to avoid this, you should always make it a point to thoroughly clean and cook your salamander prior to consumption.
Meat should always be cooked well done, to an internal temperature of at least 165° F in order to ensure that all harmful pathogens are destroyed.
Can You Eat Salamander Skin?
You can, assuming the salamander is safe to eat, but you shouldn’t and there are some specific risks associated with doing so.
Salamanders have porous skin, which means that their skin both allows things into their body and allows things in their body to come out.
In the case of toxic salamanders, this usually allows them to secrete toxin on command. But for all other salamanders and especially those that live in the water on a fuller part-time basis anything that is in the water can get into the salamander’s body.
If the water source is contaminated the salamander will surely become contaminated by it also, assuming they survive.
For this reason, it is generally good practice to skin a salamander prior to consumption.
Can You Eat Salamander Eggs?
Possibly. Salamander eggs are safe to eat assuming they are not from a toxic species and also assuming you can find them and cook them.
Can You Eat Salamander Bones?
Yes, in smaller, non-toxic species. As always, there are risk factors associated with eating bones but the tiny, delicate bones of smaller salamanders can be eaten safely after they are gently cooked and possibly ground up.
Larger salamander bones should be discarded since they pose a substantial choking risk and may become lodged in the throat or the digestive tract.
Can You Eat Salamander Organs?
Not a good idea. There is simply too much that can go wrong when eating salamander organs, from running into highly concentrated poisons to increased risk of parasite infection.
Once again, assuming that you have positively identified a safe and non-toxic salamander species your best bet is to clean the carcass thoroughly and discard the organs and the skin before cooking the meat well done. This at least will minimize the chances of a bad outcome.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.