he Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) is a large species of stream dwelling Plethodontid (lungless salamander). In Ontario, the species is designated as extirpated (extinct from the province). The species was known to have occurred in the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, but has not been observed here since 1877.
The salamander still occurs in Canada only in portions of Quebec, exclusively in the Appalachian ecoregion. Here the species is Federally listed as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). According to the Management Plan for the Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) in Canada (2013), the species is rare and the densities found are generally low.
However, despite the odds, yesterday I headed out to hopefully observe this species. When I first arrived, I headed into a forested area with a pristine looking stream. It was only seconds after this that I encountered my first salamander, a Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea bislineata). These were common in the area, and in all I would go on to see around 40 of them.
The Redback Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) was also abundant in the region, and around 40-50 of these were also seen.
Shortly after this, I came across another type of stream salamander, the much larger Northern Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus fuscus). This is the first time I have observed a Dusky Salamander in my native Canada (I have observed them many times in the Southern Appalachian Regions). Three more Duskys would be seen during my venture in Quebec.
It was not long after this that I got to observe the rare Spring Salamander. It was a large adult. The excitement was so great, that I was literally shaking upon its discovery. After I composed myself I managed to get a few photos of the stunning amphibian.
The quest continued, and in all I would see another large adult, and 16 larval forms (salamander tadpoles).
The experience of watching the rare Canadian Spring Salamanders in the wild was nothing short of remarkable. However, it was also a stark reminder of why salamanders need to be protected – given that the species no longer occurs in Ontario. Several other species that occur in Ontario (and Canada as a whole), are listed as At Risk. Therefore, I hope my encounters with salamanders will inspire others to want to preserve them.
People can find out how they can help here:
Matt Ellerbeck – The Salamander Man
Salamander Advocate & Conservationist