Species At Risk

Jefferson salamander

(Ambystoma jeffersonianum)


Jefferson salamander
Jefferson salamander occurrences map


Jefferson salamanders have a grey or brown-coloured back, with lighter under- parts. Blue flecks may be present on the sides and limbs. Adults are 12-20 cm long. The long tail makes up half this length!

Young salamanders (larvae) look like miniature adults, but with external gills. It is difficult to distinguish between Jefferson salamander larvae and that of its close relatives, because adult colouration does not develop until the salamanders leave the breeding ponds.

Action we are taking:


The Jefferson salamander lives in deciduous forests. Its range extends across parts of the northeastern U.S. In Canada, it is found only in southern Ontario, mainly along the Niagara Escarpment.


Adults live in moist, loose soil, under logs or in leaf litter. Your best chance of spotting a Jefferson salamander is in early spring when they travel to woodland ponds to breed. They lay their eggs in clumps attached to underwater vegetation. By midsummer, the larvae lose their gills and leave the pond and head into the surrounding forest. Once in the forest, Jefferson salamanders spend much of their time underground in rodent burrows, and under rocks and stumps. They feed primarily on insects and worms.


This species requires intact deciduous forest with an undisturbed forest floor. These salamanders also need unpolluted breeding ponds that do not dry up in the summer. Habitat loss and degradation caused by urban development, draining of wetlands and some resource extraction activities are the cause of the decline in salamander numbers in southern Ontario.

Today, the Ontario populations are small, isolated pockets, each with a few hundred salamanders. Small populations are at risk of local extinction due to floods, fire or other catastrophes. Road mortality as they travel between breeding, nesting and overwintering sites is also a major concern for Jefferson salamanders.


The Jefferson salamander is a threatened species both in Ontario and Canada. Ontario’s Endangered Species Act protects this species.

For more information on legislation that helps protect Ontario's species at risk visit ontario.ca/speciesatrisk.

What You Can Do to Help the Jefferson salamanders

  • Maintain salamander habitat on your property. This can be as simple as preserving vernal pools and leaving fallen logs on the forest floor. When conducting work near vernal pools or other wetlands avoid migration and breeding seasons.
  • Consult the MNR for information on provincial regulations and best management practices when working around wetlands and in forests. Call toll free 1-800-667-1940 or visit the MNR’s website at http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca.
  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Jefferson salamander. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca/species/species_report.cfm and www.ontarionature.org/atlas.
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have an important role to play in species at risk recovery.You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.

Did you know?

Jefferson salamanders breed in late March or early April. During breeding season, they travel from their overwintering sites to breeding ponds. They generally make this journey on the first warm rainy spring night of the year.

Did you know?

Unlike most small animals, Jefferson salamanders can live a very long time; up to 30 years of age!

Did you know?

Jeffersons spend the winter in old rodent burrows or cracks in the rocks below the frost line. They need to find a spot deep in the ground so they don’t freeze over the winter.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.