Mystery Pond Creature!

This morning, I was delighted to see a small slithery creature, some sort of salamander — about the length of my hand from nose to tail tip — swimming in our tiny pond behind the house. This is the pond in which the goldfish carnage in November occurred, so not only was I pleased to see the mystery creature for its own sake, I was happy to see that the pond seems to be a healthy environment again.

After taking a few pictures, I started to worry that it wasn’t actually happy there. The pond has steep sides, and the water level is a little low, so it would be quite a climb to get out. It kept swimming to the edge and scrabbling at the sides with its tiny feet, but making no progress. I called Niko over so he could look at the creature, and then I reached in and lifted it out. I expected to have to chase it around, but it didn’t attempt to evade my hand. I set it gently down on a rock, where it sat and looked around. It ventured to the edge and peered over but didn’t try to climb down. So I lifted it again, and set it down in the garden. The salamander then proceeded to crawl back to the rocks at the edge of the pond, trying to fit through a far-too-small crevice. I gently directed it to a larger crevice, and it slithered through and rested there, looking down at the water. At this point Sofia realized she’d been abandoned in her bouncy seat, so I never got to see if the salamander decided to go back into the pond. I didn’t see it later when I looked, though. I suspect it was hiding among the rocks that make up the little waterfall.

I spent far more time searching for an identification than I should have, but I still don’t know what kind of salamander this is. I’m pretty sure it is a salamander, not a newt (a rougher-skinned subgroup). But none of the salamanders I found pictures of quite matched. I found a couple that were the right color and size, but they all had wormy tails, not flat ribbon-like ones as this salamander does. Any ideas?

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