Species At Risk

Small-mouthed Salamander

(Ambystoma texanum)

Endangered

Small-mouthed Salamander
Small-mouthed Salamander occurrences map

Description

The Small-mouthed Salamander is a medium-sized, dark-bodied salamander with pale gray patches on its tail and sides that resemble lichen. It can grow to a maximum length of 17.8 centimetres. As its name suggests, it has a relatively small head and a short, narrow snout. This secretive salamander belongs to the “Mole Salamander” family, which is so called because adults spend the non-breeding season in burrows underground.

Range

In Canada, the Small-mouthed Salamander is found only on Pelee Island in extreme southwestern Ontario. This species was considered locally abundant in 1991, but by 2000 the range of this salamander decreased substantially, when two out of only five known breeding ponds dried up. There are currently no population estimates for the Small-mouthed Salamander on Pelee Island.

Habitat

The Small-mouthed Salamander prefers moist habitats, such as tall grass prairies, dense deciduous forests and agricultural lands that provide suitable breeding ponds. They require soft soil for digging burrows and ponds without fish for breeding. Eggs are laid on leaf litter and debris at the bottom of the pond. It is important that the ponds do not support fish because these predators would eat the young salamanders. Adults spend most of the non-breeding season hidden in burrows dug by themselves or by other animals, underneath decomposing tree trunks, rocks or fallen leaves.

Threats

The most significant threat to the Small-mouthed Salamander is habitat degradation. Threats include reduction in forest cover that slows the evaporation of breeding ponds, removal of decomposing logs that provide habitats for invertebrates on which salamanders feed, and decreased water levels. Water levels are particularly important since sufficient water is needed in the breeding pond to allow tadpoles to mature (particularly from March to July).

The Small-mouthed Salamander can also produce hybrids by breeding with the more common Blue-spotted Salamander. The hybrid population may increase competition for resources.

Protection

The Small-mouthed Salamander is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Small-mouthed Salamander

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Small-mouthed Salamander. The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas also 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).
  • 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
  • Every year salamanders all over the province must cross busy roads. Road mortality is a serious threat for many of Ontario’s amphibians. Watch for salamanders and other amphibians on the roads, especially between April and June.
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in Small-mouthed Salamander recovery. If you find a Small-mouthed Salamander on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • There is also a new program geared to eligible farms registered under the Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan to encourage greater protection and conservation of habitat for species at risk. www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/environment/efp/efp.htm.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • 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.

Did you know?

In Greek, the word "amphibian” means “two lives” and refers to the aquatic tadpole and the terrestrial adult stages of all amphibians. Salamander tadpoles hatch from eggs laid in the water and transform into adults (through a process called metamorphosis) by developing legs and lungs that allow it to move out of the water and onto land.

Did you know?

Salamanders can take in oxygen through their highly permeable skin. Their skin can also easily absorb pollutants and other toxins, which can cause serious harm or death.

Did you know?

Although populations of many plants and animals have been declining worldwide, amphibians are experiencing an especially dramatic decline. The loss of these sensitive creatures may act as a warning that our own environment is being dangerously altered and polluted.


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.