Coastal Giant Salamander / Grand salamandre du Nord
Able to reach 30 cm in total length, the Coastal Giant Salamander is one of the largest
terrestrial salamanders. Most adults are only about half of this length, however. It is
generally brown with black mottling.
The Coastal Giant Salamander is most similar to the
Barred (formerly Tiger) Salamander, which is also blotchy, but its snout is blunter
than the Coastal Giant Salamander. In addition, the ranges of the two species do not
overlap. In British Columbia, Barred Salamanders are only found in areas like the
In Canada, the Coastal Giant Salamander is limited to a small area in southwestern British
Columbia. To the south, it is found along the Coastal coast to northern California.
Steep mountain streams are the prime habitat for Coastal Giant Salamanders. These fast
flowing steams have many obstructions such as fallen logs that form rapids, falls and
splash pools. Just as important is the fact that these obstructions prevent fish from
moving upstream. This allows the Coastal Giant Salamander to exist without competition
or predation by fish.
Breeding occurs in the spring. The female lays large (more than half a centimeter in
diamter) eggs singly on the underside of rocks or logs. The female will stay with the
eggs until they hatch in the fall. It can take two or three years for the larvae to
transform at 10-15 cm in length. In some populations in British Columbia, the larvae
do not transform, but reach maturity in the larval state. This strategy (neotony) is
believed to occur when conditions are particular harsh on land, or the aquatic habitat
is particular safe -- a permanent, fishless waterbody.
Terrestrial Coastal Giant Salamanders live under logs or rocks. At times however, they
can be seen crawling about on the ground in the leaf litter and even climbing in bushes
or trees. Adults feed on a large variety of insects and other invertebrates as well as
small vertebrates: other salamanders or small mammals like shrews or voles. The larvae
also eat a wide variety of insects, plus other amphibian larvae and small fish.
As Coastal Giant Salamanders live in fishless streams, their habitat has often been
unprotected. They are senstive to disturbances in the mature forests around their
streams and thus have been effected by logging. The government of British Columbia
has placed the Coastal Giant Salamander on their Red List of threatened and endangered
species. Nationally they are designated Threatened by