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

Dicamptodon tenebrosus
Coastal Giant Salamander / Grand salamandre du Nord


Coastal Giant Salamander

Description
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.

Confusing Species
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 Okanagan Valley.

Distribution
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.

Habitat
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.

Reproduction
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.

Natural History
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.

Conservation Concerns
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 COSEWIC.