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Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network - Réseau Canadien de 
Conservation des Amphibiens et des Reptiles

Ambystoma gracile
Northwestern Salamander / Salamandre foncée


Northwestern Salamander

Description
This is a robust gray-brown to chocolate brown salamander with a light brown belly. Counting the long tail, the Northwestern Salamander can grow to over 20 cm in total length.

Confusing Species
The Barred (formerly Tiger) Salamander can also be brown, but it is very blotchy. In addition, the ranges of the two salamanders do not really overlap.

Distribution
Found only in British Columbia, the Northwestern Salamander occurs along the coast from the United States to southern Alaska. To the south it is found to northern California.

Habitat
The Northwestern Salamander is found in a wide variety of humid landscapes: from open grasslands to dense forests. It is also found over a wide range of elevations -- from sea level to over 3000 m. Breeding occurs in lakes, ponds, or slow-moving streams.

Reproduction
Breeding occurs in spring at lower elevations, but as late as June or July in cooler areas. Females lay several compact egg masses of 15-35 eggs. Sometimes only one elongated egg mass of 100-200 eggs is laid. Within a month the larvae hatch out at approximately 1.5 mm in length. It can take one to two years for the larvae to transform into salamanders at 8-9 cm long.

Natural History
Very little is known about the life history of this secretive salamander. Outside of the breeding season the Northwestern Salamander is rarely seen. When threatened it secretes a sticky white substance from glands on the head, body and tail that is mildly toxic. Some populations at higher elevations are neotenic - - the larvae never transform into terrestrial adults, but reach maturity in the larval state. This is believed to be an adaptation to harsh conditions on land and relatively safe conditions in the water.

Conservation Concerns
The Northwestern Salamander appears to be secure.