Siskiyou Mountains Salamander

We are wild about the Siskiyou Mountains salamander, it is our KS Wild mascot! This special creature can only be found in isolated pockets of Klamath and Applegate river drainages, preferring shaded tallus slopes with mature moss. Salamanders play a key role in forest nutrient flow because they feed on soil invertebrates that  breakdown plant material. Requiring a moist habitat to breathe through their skin and hardly moving beyond several meters in their lifetime, they are extremely sensitive to forest disturbances such as logging.

Siskiyou Mountains Salamander, Plethodon stormi


Siskiyou Mountains salamander (Plethodon stormi) is endemic to northern Siskiyou County, California, and southern Jackson County, Oregon.  It is a member of the lungless salamander family, Plethodontidae, and the woodland salamander, Plethodon, genus.  As a lungless salamander, Siskiyou Mountains salamanders breathe through their skin, which must always be moist or wet for respiration to occur. 

Due to their need for moist climates, Siskiyou Mountains salamanders live in talus or rocky hillsides in the shade of late-successional or old-growth forests with closed canopies and moist micro-climates.  They surface from their subterrestrial refugia during the fall, winter, and spring rains.  Even in moist environments, Siskiyou Mountains salamanders lose moisture when outside their underground cavities.  Short periods of surface time reduce predation time availability, which has led them to become opportunistic feeders.

Siskiyou Mountains salamanders feed upon spiders, pseudo-scorpions, mites, ants, collembolans (or ‘springtails’), and beetles on the surface at night.

Since the Siskiyou Mountains salamander's activity is restricted to a cool, moist, or rainy climate, determining their abundance is difficult.  Currently, there are 420 square miles of known habitat in California and 290 square miles in Oregon.  Sixty-eight percent of this area is on Federal lands, but their total population is yet to be determined.  

The most prevalent threats to Siskiyou Mountains salamanders are clear-cutting or regeneration harvests on known or suitable habitat, road building, quarry development, and development for recreational use.  Studies of Siskiyou Mountains salamanders in Siskiyou County, California have shown that two years after clear-cutting on known Siskiyou Mountain salamander sites, no salamanders were found.  Seven years proceeding the clear-cut, one Siskiyou Mountains salamander was found.     

In February 2000, we completed a status review for the Siskiyou Mountains salamander. We are following new genetic research which has the potential to warrant protection for distinct populations under the Endangered Species Act. ESA protection for these populations could result in a significant reduction in logging and road building on both public and private lands.

In June 2004, KS Wild and a coalition of groups filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requesting protection of the Siskiyou Mountains salamander as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The salamander was formerly protected under a provision of the Northwest Forest Plan called the “Survey and Manage” Program, which required the Forest Service and BLM to conduct surveys of the salamander and protect its habitat. The Bush Administration attempted to eliminate the Survey and Manage Program March 23, 2004, and conservation organizations including KS Wild thwarted that effort.

In 2016, the BLM withdrew from the Northwest Forest Plan and no longer surveys for or manages salamander habitat for protection. This is particularly troubling for important salamander habitat in the Applegate Valley. Also, the nearby Klamath National Forest has ramped up its post-fire logging program, including areas within salamander habitat. So, on both sides of the Siskiyou Crest the salamander is facing increased threats from federal management. Add to this the increasing impacts of climate change, and the Siskiyou Mountain Salamander is in real trouble. KS Wild, along with our allies, has again petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list the species as endangered, and we are preparing for a long-term struggle to protect salamander habitat.

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