Coeur d'Alene Salamander - Plethodon idahoensis
Eggs are unlikely to be encountered because they are laid in moist subterranean fractured rock sites (Lynch 1984). Clusters can be up to 13 eggs (Lynch 1984). Eggs are cream colored, around 5 mm in diameter, and surrounded by two jelly capsules (Larson et al. 1998).
There is no larval stage. Instead juveniles hatch directly from eggs.
JUVENILES AND ADULTS
The legs are relatively long with slightly webbed toes which are shorter than the soles of the feet. A greenish-yellow, orange, or red dorsal stripe may extend from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail and a yellowish throat patch is present. The stripe usually has scalloped edges, though they may be even. Eyelids are the same color as the dorsal stripe. White flecking is present on the lateral and ventral surfaces over a black base color. There are 14-15 costal grooves present. Snout-vent length (SVL) of 18 to 64 mm (Lynch 1984).
Adult Long-toed Salamanders (Ambystoma macrodactylum
) do not have nasolabial grooves, their toes are not webbed, and the fourth toe on their hind feet is longer than the soles of their hind feet. See habitat for Long-toed Salamander for differences in habitat use. Western Tiger Salamander (A. mavortium
) are more heavy-bodied, lack a single dorsal stripe and nasolabial groove. See sections on distribution for geographic areas of possible overlap for Long-toed and Western Tiger Salamanders.
Coeur d'Alene Salamanders have 0.5 to 3.0 intercostal folds between limbs. It has the fewest costal grooves of all western Plethodon
. It also has more vomerine and premaxillary-maxillary teeth and a relatively shorter tail than other western Plethodon
Western Hemisphere Range
The Coeur d’Alene Salamander is a distinct species inhabiting the northern Rocky Mountains in
northern Idaho, northwest Montana, and southeastern British Columbia at elevations up to 1,550
m (5,086 ft) (Howard et al. 1993; Petranka 1998; Wilson et al. 1997; Wilson and Larsen 1998). In Montana they have been documented at isolated localities in a narrow band west of the Bitterroot River, Salish Mountains, and Lake Koocanusa from Sweathouse Creek in the Bitterroot Valley to just north of the town of Yaak near the Canadian border. However, given the paucity of surveys that have been conducted; it is likely that their range extends further south on the west side of the Bitterroot Valley and all the way to the Canadian border.
Maximum elevation: 1585 m (5,200 ft) in Ravalli County (Werner et al. 2004). A biogeographic analysis indicates that they may be found up to 1,800 m (5,906 ft) at the southern end of their range in Montana (Wilson and Larsen 1998). A voucher specimen was collected well above this theoretical maximum elevation at 2,438 m (8,000 ft) in Ravalli County, but because the animal was found dead on the surface it is possible it was carried to the location (Maxell et al. 2003).
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
The species is a non-migrant.
The occupied habitat for Coeur d'Alene Salamanders in Montana is like that for the entire global range and includes the three major habitat categories usually with a forest canopy cover: springs and seeps (76%), waterfall spray zones (6%), and damp streambanks (17%). Additionally, in Montana, two sites occurred in abandoned mines. (Wilson and Larsen 1988; Werner and Reichel 1994; Wilson et al. 1997; Boundy 2001; Maxell 2002).
Primary habitats are seepages and streamside talus; they also inhabit talus far from free water (deep talus mixed with moist soil on well-shaded north-facing slopes). However, the relative number of locations in each type is likely biased by differences in survey efficiency and probably does not reflect the importance of the different habitats. The abundance of seep locations is at least partly due to the relative ease of surveying roadside seeps. Streams and waterfalls are often less accessible, particularly at night. Coeur d'Alene Salamanders are most difficult to find in streamside habitat, where they are usually observed underneath moist rocks on the banks adjacent to the water. Searches of 30 minutes to find a Coeur d'Alene Salamander at a stream site during daylight are not uncommon (Groves 1988).
Coeur d'Alene Salamander occurrences are generally located in coniferous forests but are not restricted to a specific overstory species or aspect. Populations have been found in areas with Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa
), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii
), Western Larch (Larix occidentalis
), Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata
) and Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla
) overstories (Groves 1988; Groves et al. 1996) at all aspects.
Of the 99 known occurrences in Idaho, 90% of sites with data collected on habitats were in areas of greater than 25% canopy cover and only two (both seeps) were in an area with 10% cover or less. Forest cover may be more important near stream sites than seep sites. Average cover at seven streamside sites (83% + or - 15%) was significantly greater than at seep locations (57% ± 5%), (Cassirer et al. 1994). Minimum canopy cover measured at stream sites was 42%. Terrain at sites was typically steep, with average slopes of 62% (range 10-90%) (Groves 1988; Wilson 1991).
Known populations occur in association with sharply fractured rock formations (used for underground refugia) from 488 m to 1,524 m in elevation. This fractured rock is often found in the Belt Rock formation but can also occur in talus and in other geologic types (Wilson and Simon 1987; Groves and Cassirer 1989). The species is found in conjunction with both persistent and intermittent surface water. Thus, it is possible to locate Coeur d'Alene Salamanders at a wet site in the spring yet be unable to find any animals at the same site later in the summer when the site is dry on the surface.
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: mtnhp.org/requests
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Sparse and Barren Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
This species is an invertivore. When above ground, Coeur d'Alene Salamanders feed primarily on insects (11 orders documented) and other invertebrates, including millipedes, mites, spiders, harvestmen, snails, and segmented worms (Wilson and Larsen 1988; Lindeman 1993). They appear to be opportunistic feeders and generally restrict foraging activities to moist spray zones, seeps, or streamside rocks and vegetation. They may venture beyond these areas during rainy periods. The diet is most like other salamanders that occupy semi-aquatic habitats.
Coeur d’Alene Salamanders are lungless. They respire through their skin and lose water to the environment through evaporation (Spotila 1972; Feder 1983). This results in restricting their movement to cool and damp environments. Because Coeur d'Alene Salamanders may live in the harshest climate of any northwestern plethodontid (Nussbaum et al. 1983), they are highly dependent on the thermal and hydrologic stability provided by wet habitats in otherwise inhospitable surroundings. For this reason, Coeur d'Alene Salamanders are closely tied to water and are considered among the most aquatic plethodontids (Brodie and Storm 1970).
The Coeur d'Alene Salamander is most often nocturnal when surface-active. Although it has been seen in daytime during rain, heavy overcast, and clear sky conditions; surface activity is most prevalent during spring and fall (Wilson and Larsen 1988). In wet weather and when temperatures are greater than 7° C, Coeur d’Alene Salamanders are active at night and can be found in leaf litter or under bark and logs in coniferous forests (Wilson and Larsen 1988). Surface activity is negatively correlated with high daytime temperatures and days since last rain (Wilson and Larsen 1988). The wet microclimate it occupies buffers this species from climatic extremes and may explain its persistence in a region lacking other species of plethodontid salamanders. Altogether, Coeur d’Alene Salamanders may spend up to seven months underground (Nussbaum et al. 1983, Cassirer et al. 1994, Groves et al. 1996).
Population sizes are difficult to measure, and no estimates are available. Predators include birds, gartersnakes, and possibly small mammals or ground beetles (Wilson and Simon 1985, Staub 1995, Wilson and Wilson 1996). Other sources of mortality include trampling (Werner and Reichel 1994). Evidence exists for snake predation upon the species: on July 24, 1986 in the Kootenai River Gorge, Lincoln County, Wilson and Wilson (1996) retrieved a 2.5 centimeter Coeur d’Alene Salamander tail tip from a fresh road-killed Common Gartersnake, (Thamnophis sirtalis
) (39.5 centimeters SVL), and on June 8, 1987, they palped a neonate P. idahoensis
(1.8 cm SVL) from an immature Common Gartersnake (18.9 cm SVL) above the west shore of Lake Koocanusa, Lincoln County, Montana.
Adults breed terrestrially in late summer to fall (August to October), and, to a lesser extent, in the spring (April and May) (Lynch 1984; Lynch and Wallace 1987). Males are sexually mature at 3.5 years of age (44 mm SVL); females at 4.5 years (48 to 49 mm SVL), but some individuals may delay breeding. Coeur d’Alene Salamanders typically lay their first clutch during their 5th spring (Lynch 1984). Males mate every year, whereas females mate in alternate years (Lynch 1984).
After a courtship ritual of an hour or more, the male deposits a spermatophore, which is picked up by the female with her cloaca (Lynch and Wallace 1987). Females store sperm up to nine months before fertilizing eggs. Females deposit an average of six eggs in April or May, presumably in underground rock crevices, although no nest sites have been found in the wild (Lynch 1984). Little information exists regarding Coeur d'Alene Salamander reproduction in Montana. An egg mass was laid by a captive female in early June. The egg mass was 21 millimeters maximum dimension and contained a clutch of seven eggs (Larson et al. 1998). Juveniles emerge directly from the eggs in mid-September (Lynch 1984). Neonates apparently grow more slowly than other Plethodon species. Growth probably occurs in spurts associated with wet weather in the spring and fall.
The following was taken from the Status and Conservation section for the Coeur d’Alene Salamander account in Maxell et al. 2009
Coeur d’Alene Salamanders have only been documented at approximately 50 localities in Montana, with virtually all populations isolated by miles of unsuitable habitat that cannot be crossed. Populations that have been documented appear to remain healthy if the microhabitats they require are not disturbed. Risk factors relevant to the viability of populations of this species are likely to include timber harvest, fire and fire management activities, road and trail development and maintenance, on-road vehicle use, development of water impoundments, and the isolation of individual populations as described above. Individual studies that specifically identify risk factors or other issues relevant to the conservation of Coeur d’Alene Salamanders include the following. (1) (Wallace 1986) found that populations separated by 60 miles had little if any gene flow and concluded that current gene flow was not sufficient to maintain interpopulation similarity. In other words, individual populations that are separated from others by several miles may be on separate evolutionary trajectories because there is no gene flow given the dry intervening habitats which do not allow individuals to disperse. (2) Cassirer et al. (1994) and Groves et al. (1996) both thoroughly review potential risk factors relevant to the viability of Coeur d’Alene Salamander populations and give details on how these potential risk factors can be mitigated through management actions. Both manuscripts should be consulted closely. (3) In a conservation assessment completed for and partially sponsored by the Region 1 USFS office Cassirer et al. (1994) gave details for inventorying for and monitoring Coeur d’Alene Salamander populations in all Region 1 National Forests in which they have been documented. However, their inventory and monitoring suggestions were never initiated.
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
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- Groves, C. R. 1988. Status and distribution of the Coeur d' Alene salamander (Plethodon vandykei idahoensis) in Idaho. Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Boise, Idaho. 39 p.
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- Maxell, B.A. 2002. Geographic Distribution. Plethodon idahoensis. Herpetological Review 33(2): 144.
- Maxell, B.A., J.K. Werner, P. Hendricks, and D.L. Flath. 2003. Herpetology in Montana: a history, status summary, checklists, dichotomous keys, accounts for native, potentially native, and exotic species, and indexed bibliography. Society for Northwestern Vertebrate Biology, Northwest Fauna Number 5. Olympia, WA. 135 p.
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- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
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- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Amphibians"