Long-toed Salamander

Ambystoma macrodactylum

Species at Risk: Sensitive

Alberta has two native salamander species and both belong to the mole salamander family. The long-toed salamander is the smaller of the two and is approximately 80-120mm in length. In Canada there are three subspecies, and in Alberta we have the eastern subspecies, Ambystoma macrodactylum krausei. This salamander gets its name from its long, thin, unwebbed digits. The fourth toe on the hind leg is longest. They have a background coloration of dark green, grey or black with an attractive yellow vertebral stripe that can be surrounded by variable amounts of light colored flecks. There is usually a yellow patch over each eye. The belly is generally a light grey.

The long-toed salamander lives in alpine and sub-alpine area in western Alberta. It is primarily nocturnal and generally only found during brief periods in spring and fall while it is moving to and from its breeding ponds. These can be lakes, ponds or shallow areas of exposed groundwater. With substrates of rocky glacial deposit the waters remain clear and more often than not, very cold. The adults can be found underneath rocks, rotting logs, and other debris around these wetlands.

The long-toed salamander is doing well in Alberta. It was previously considered rare, however intensive surveys found many new populations of this secretive animal. Introduction of stock fish, and wetland drainage or destruction are threats common to this species elsewhere and may threaten Alberta populations with increased development along our western border. Mining and logging are two big Alberta industries that will impact this species as activities increase in the mountains and foothills. They increase sedimentation and pollute the clear water wetlands typical of this area.

The Amphibians and Reptiles of Alberta by A.P.Russell and A.M.Bauer

Photo by Matthew Atkinson-Adams