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Siskiyou Mountains Salamander

Plethodon stormi

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SISKIYOU MOUNTAINS SALAMANDER, Plethodon stormi, Photo by Gary Nafis

Siskiyou Mountains salamander is endemic to northern Siskiyou County, California and southern Jackson Country, Oregon.  It is a member of the lungless salamander family, Plethodontidae, and the woodland salamander, Plethodon, genus.  As a lungless salamander, Siskiyou Mountains salamanders breathe through their skin, which must always be moist or wet for respiration to occur. 


Due to their need for moist climates, Siskiyou Mountains salamanders live in talus or rocky hillsides in the shade of late-successional or old-growth forests with closed canopies and moist microclimates.  They surface from their subterrestrial refugia during the fall, winter and spring rains.  Even in moist environments, Siskiyou Mountains salamanders lose moisture when outside their underground cavities.  Short periods of surface time reduce predation time availability, which has led them to become opportunistic feeders.


Siskiyou Mountains salamanders feed upon spiders, pseudoscorpions, mites, ants, collembolans (or ‘springtails’) and beetles on the surface at night.


Since Siskiyou Mountains salamander activity is restricted to a cool, moist or rainy climate, determining their abundance is difficult.  Currently, there are 420 square miles of known habitat in California and 290 square miles in Oregon.  Sixty-eight percent of this area is on Federal lands, but their total population is yet to be determined.  


The most prevalent threats to Siskiyou Mountains salamanders are clearcutting or regeneration harvests on known or suitable habitat, road building, quarry development and development for recreational use.  Studies of Siskiyou Mountains salamanders in Siskiyou County, California have shown that two years after clearcutting on known Siskiyou Mountains salamander sites, no salamanders were found.  Seven years proceeding the clearcut, one Siskiyou Mountains salamander was found.     


In February 2000, we completed a status review for the Siskiyou Mountains Salamander (Plethodon stormi), an endemic amphibian that has been adversely affected by logging and roadbuilding in its talus habitat. We are following new genetic research which has the potential to warrant protection for distinct populations under the Endangered Species Act. ESA protection for these populations could result in a significant reduction in logging and roadbuilding on both public and private lands.


In June 2004, KS Wild and a coalition of groups filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requesting protection of the Siskiyou Mountains Salamander as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The salamander was formerly protected under a provision of the Northwest Forest Plan called the “Survey and Manage” Program, which required the Forest Service and BLM to conduct surveys for the salamander and protect its habitat. The Bush Administration eliminated the Survey and Manage Program March 23, 2004.