Green Salamander (Aneides avenues) © Matt Ellerbeck

Last month I had the great pleasure of once again observing salamanders in the Southern Appalachians mountains region. I visited sites in Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. One spot that was particularly successful was in the Bays Mountain area in Tennessee.

Here I had the opportunity to encounter two very elusive salamanders, the Mud Salamander (Pseudotriton montanus) and the Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus).

According to Amphibaweb, little is known about the Mud Salamander’s abundance. It is a secretive, often subterranean species. It is not uncommon for decades to pass between sightings despite intense collection efforts at a given location. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries states that sightings tend to be rare. A thorough consideration of the conservation status of P. montanus requires more information than is currently available.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency describes the Green Salamander as rarely seen and uncommon. Petranka (1998) states that the Green Salamander is patchily distributed and generally uncommon throughout most of its range. It was truly an immense pleasure and privilege to see this animal in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Green Salamander as a species that may be considered threatened with extinction in the near future.

Therefore, this makes the sightings of these salamanders that much more amazing.

Although I saw many salamander species in and around this region, three others that should be mentioned are the diminutive Pygmy Salamander (Desmognathus wrighti), the closely related but extremely variable Blue Ridge Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus orestes), and the Southern Gray-Cheeked Salamander (Plethodon metcalfi). NatureServe lists all three of these endemic species as Vulnerable, meaning they are at moderate risk of extinction or elimination due to a restricted range, relatively few populations, recent and widespread declines, or other factors.

Having a knowledge of salamanders is one thing, but having a local as a guide is indispensable. Fortunately for me Tristan Clark, who is an accomplished salamander observer, was kind enough to show me around several sites in Tennessee. For this I am extremely grateful!

Tristan has recently launched a new page called the Salamanders of Bay’s Mountain to bring attention to the species that are found in the region. I strongly encourage other amphibian enthusiasts and conservationist to follow and join the page.

By Matt Ellerbeck – The Salamander Man
Salamander Advocate & Conservationist

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