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Coeur d'Alène Salamander

Plethodon idahoensis

Family: Plethodontidae

COSEWIC status:
  • Special Concern
SARA status:
  • Special Concern
IUCN status:
  • Least Concern

Description

The Coeur d’Alène Salamander is slender-bodied and can attain a total length of 13 cm. Individuals are dark brown to black with a wavy-edged yellow, orange or red dorsal stripe that breaks apart on the head. The belly is dark with a yellow patch on the throat and there is light flecking on the sides and legs. This species has large parotid glands on the head behind the eyes, typically 14 costal groves, relatively long legs and short, slightly webbed toes

Similar Species

The Coeur d’Alène Salamander is most easily confused the Western Red-backed Salamander and the Long-toed Salamander. The Western Red-backed Salamander has a straight-edged red stripe that continues from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail and smaller legs than the Coeur d’Alène Salamander. The Long-toed Salamander has long toes on the hind feet, especially the second from the outside, whereas the Coeur d’Alène Salamander has very short, slightly webbed toes.

Distribution

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The Coeur d’Alène Salamander has a very restricted global range. In Canada, this species occurs in the mountainous region of southeastern British Columbia. In The United Sstates, the Coeur d’Alène Salamander occurs in northwestern Montana and northern Idaho.

Habitat

The Coeur d’Alène Salamander inhabits wet, rocky habitats that are associated with streams and seeps, such as streams with bedrock substrate, waterfall splash zones, caves and wet talus slopes. Loose rocks and rocky crevices are important microhabitats that are used as shelter and nesting sites. Individuals hibernate in deep crevices in the bedrock or in talus slopes.

Biology

Plethodontid salamanders, including the Coeur d’Alène Salamander, are also known as lungless salamanders because the adults do not have lungs or gills; instead, they absorb oxygen directly through their skin. They must remain moist at all times so that oxygen and carbon dioxide can diffuse through the skin. Coeur d’Alène Salamanders breed in the spring or the fall, and females lay between four and twelve eggs in the spring. The female likely guards the eggs until they hatch in late summer. There is no larval stage; the gills are absorbed around the time of hatching and the hatchlings are a miniature version of the terrestrial adults. Individuals reach sexual maturity after about four years, and females only breed every two or three years. Individuals can live for at least 12 years. Coeur d’Alène Salamanders are most active above-ground during rainy weather and at night, and they primarily forage for aquatic and semi-aquatic insects.

Threats

Road construction, particularly at stream crossings, is the primary threat to this species in Canada. Clear cuts and other forestry activities are also a significant threat to this species’ habitat. Pollution (e.g. herbicides and road salt) of the streams and seeps that this species inhabits can be detrimental since toxins are easily absorbed though their skin. Climate change and introduced pathogens pose potentially serious future threats to Canadian salamanders.

Additional Information About This Species In Canada