The word salamander comes from the Arabic and means "lives in fire". This is a myth. Salamanders cannot withstand flames but need to live in a moist environment and prefer their home comforts in or under damp logs. When people put logs onto campfires they often see these little creatures scuttling out. They can grow 5 to 12 inches long and look like lizards with big eyes. They have a black body with bright yellow or orange patterned markings; this is a warning that they are poisonous. Their skin produces a nasty substance that tastes awful, irritates the eyes and can even kill small mammals. They have poison glands on their backs and they can squirt this toxic liquid into the face of any unsuspecting animal. If you come across one of these creatures, leave well alone.
If you hear someone shout, "Serpiente" - watch where you are treading.
Whilst there are many snakes in Spain, they are mainly found in the mountainous and heavily forested areas. The most dangerous period is in the spring and summer as they hibernate during the cooler months of autumn and winter.
Please note: The Spanish population is over 40 million, expanding each year by the same number of tourists to 80 million people.
Hill Walkers/Rock Climbers: If you are an ardent hill walker, climber, rambler etc you should keep a particular eye out to spot snakes. There are 13 different types in Spain but only 5 of which have venom and only the vipers, they say, can cause death.
Seoane's Viper (Vipera seoanei - víbora de Seoane). This snake is dangerous. It lives in Galicia, León, the Cantabrian coastal strip (Cornisa Cantábrica) and the Basque Country.
Lataste's Viper. Snub nosed. It is present throughout the Spanish Peninsula though nowhere is it common. It is grey, short (around 50cm) and is distinguished by its triangular head and the zigzag pattern on its back. It lives in dry, rocky areas. Be particularly careful when collecting firewood not to stick fingers into holes or crevices as viper bites can be fatal.
Asp Viper (Vipera aspis - víbora áspid). A particularly nasty venomous snake (of Cleopatra fame) it is of the cobra family whose venom can cause death by stopping the heart. If confronted it issues a hissing warning and a jerking movement of its head. It is not prolific in Spain and is thought to be restricted to the Pyrenees.
False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus - culebra de cogulla) I am told this creature is not aggressive and is mainly seen in Catalonia. I still recommend leaving all snakes alone.
The Adder or Common Viper (Vipera Berus) is in most parts of Europe including the UK and Spain. The adder reaches a length of up to 24 inches. Its bite is painful and can be dangerous, particularly to children and older people. It can even be fatal to someone in a poor state of health. If you are bitten, obtain medical assistance immediately.
The Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Fully grown adults are blackish, a dark grey or olive with a white underbelly and can grow to over 6ft long. Its rear fangs are poisonous. Its bite is not fatal but is unpleasant and painful, and you are advised to see a doctor if bitten.
Medical treatment: If you are bitten by any venomous snake, remain calm and seek medical attention immediately.
Toads in Spain are very poisonous to animals. If molested they exude a poison from their skin or produce saliva and an animal ingesting this can suffer heart failure. They are not particularly harmful to humans so don't kill them, just keep animals and children away.
Treatment: An infected animal needs urgent treatment by a Veterinary within 40 minutes or death is quite probable.