Trinity Alps Giant Salamander

Mystery Amphibian of California.

Physical description: Dark brown, with dull yellow spots. Length, 2-9 feet. Closed gill openings.

Distribution: Trinity Alps, northern California.

Significant sightings: In the 1920s, Frank L. Griffith was hunting deer at the head of the New River when he spotted five huge salamanders at the bottom of a small meadow lake. Although he caught one on a hook, he could not pull it out.

George S. Myers examined a 25-30-inch salamander caught in the Sacramento River in 1939.

In January 1960, Vern Harden claimed to have hooked a specimen measuring 8 feet 4 inches in a remote lake in the Trinity Alps. A blizzard blew up, and he had to abandon the animal.

Present status: Tom Slick tried to get members of his 1960 BIGFOOT-hunting Pacific Northwest Expedition to make a side trip in search of the salamanders, but they balked. Thomas L. Rodgers, in 1948 and 1960, and Kyle Mi-zokami, in 1997, unsuccessfully searched for the animals.

Possible explanations:

(1) An isolated group of Pacific giant salamanders (Dicamptodon ensatus), suggested by Thomas Rodgers, though


T ht tffigus of the Tricon WSircnf/ Nilus

TRITON and Siren. From Ambroise Paré, The Workes of That Famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey (London: Th. Cotes and R. Young, 1634). (Fortean Picture Library)

adults rarely grow larger than 7—11 inches. Neotenic individuals can reach a length of 14 inches. In northern California, they are found as far inland as the headwaters of the Sacramento River. They are dark brown in color, with a network of irregular spots of tan, copper, gray, or purplish. (2) According to George Myers, it could be an unknown North American species related to the Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus)—the largest amphibian in the world, which grows to an average length of 3 feet 9 inches. The longest recorded specimen was 5 feet 9 inches long. Sources: George S. Myers, "Asiatic Giant Salamander Caught in the Sacramento River," Copeia 2 (June 1951); William Boquist, "Sea Monster in Trinity Alps Lake?" San Francisco Examiner, January 18, 1960; Thomas L. Rodgers, "Report of Giant Salamander in California," Copeia 3 (September 1962); Loren Coleman, Tom Slick and the Search for the Yeti (Boston: Faber and Faber, 1989), pp. 120-125; Loren Coleman, "Promises of Giants," Fortean Times, no. 103 (October 1997): 43.

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