Species At Risk

Northern Dusky Salamander

(Desmognathus fuscus)


Northern Dusky Salamander
Northern Dusky Salamander occurrences map


The Northern Dusky Salamander is usually gray to yellowish brown or dark brown and can reach about 6 to14 cm in length. Adults have hind legs that are much larger than the front legs and have a light bar that extends from the eye to the corner of the mouth. Dark flecks may be found on the back and sides, and a ridge along the top of the tail.


The Northern Dusky Salamander is widely distributed in eastern North America, including Quebec and New Brunswick. In Ontario, it is restricted to a small area of the Niagara Peninsula.


Northern Dusky Salamander adults are mainly found on land, but are always close to small groundwater fed streams, seeps (areas where water in the ground oozes to the surface to form a pool) and springs, where they live under rocks, logs or leaf litter within or near water.


The Niagara area of Ontario has undergone significant development since European settlement, resulting in a loss of high quality groundwater habitat. Activities that affect the quality and quantity of groundwater can result in a loss of high quality habitat that is essential to the survival of the Northern Dusky Salamander. In addition, uncontrolled stormwater runoff has caused slope instabilities in adjacent areas, leaving these salamanders vulnerable to rock falls and mudslides. Excessive trampling of seeps is also a threat to this species and their habitat.


The Northern Dusky Salamander and its habitat are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. This species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Amphibian under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

In Ontario, the entire population is found on public land that is protected.

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

What You Can Do to Help the Northern Dusky Salamander

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Northern Dusky Salamander. The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas collects observations of all Ontario reptiles and amphibians. Submit your observations to either of these databases at nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca/species/species_report.cfm and www.ontarionature.org/atlas. Photographs are important to help confirm the identification of species and are always helpful.
  • As with all wildlife, be respectful and observe from a distance. Please do not try to catch wild salamanders; bug repellant and oils on human hands may damage the delicate skin of these little amphibians.
  • 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 recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats. For more information, visit: ontario.ca/speciesatrisk.
  • Never buy salamanders that have been caught in the wild and never buy a native species of any kind that’s being sold as a pet
  • Visit the Ontario reptile and Amphibian Atlas ( www.ontarionature.org/atlas) or Toronto Zoo Adopt-a-Pond website ( (www.torontozoo.com/Adoptapond)) to learn more about Ontario’s rare snakes, their habitat and related conservation initiatives.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.

Did you know?

Northern Dusky Salamanders were once thought to be absent from Ontario, despite many historical reports, but were recently rediscovered in 1989.

Did you know?

Northern Dusky Salamanders overwinter below the frost line in seeps and underground retreats where the ground temperature is fairly constant.

Did you know?

Mating and egg-laying takes place in the summer, and the females typically lay eggs in moist areas near the water such as under stones or logs and in moss.

Did you know?

When seized by a predator, the Northern Dusky Salamander has the ability to self-amputate its tail which continues to twitch, acting as an excellent diversion while the salamander escapes. A new tail soon replaces the old one.

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.