Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile

The northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile) is a species of mole salamander that can be found along the Pacific Coast of North America. Its range extends from May Island in southeastern Alaska to the Gulala River in Sonoma County, California. It resides in a number of habitats from sea level to the timberline, including grasslands and woodlands, but cannot be found east of the Great Divide. It holds two subspecies known as A. g. decorticatum and A. g. gracile, which are separated by a dividing line that occurs at 51°N latitude.

The northwestern salamander reaches an average body length of 8.7 inches and comes in a variety of forms, including spotted forms, which can only be found in northern areas of its range. Adults with gills, known as neotenic adults, are common, although these are most often seen in high altitude areas. Lower altitudes hold larger numbers of adults without gills, also known as terrestrial adults. These populations are most often active during the spring and fall months when rains are heavy and breeding season occurs.

The total population number of the northwester salamander is unknown, but some populations seem to be declining in a few areas of its range. Habitat destruction caused by clear-cutting is known to be a threat to the species. Proposed conservation efforts include habitat conservation. The northwestern salamander appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern.”

Image Caption:  Northwestern Salamander (Ambystoma gracile) I found and posed for the picture a few minutes before releasing it. Picture taken in Langley, BC. Credit: The High Fin Sperm Whale/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)