Yellow-Blotched Salamander

Ensatina eschscholtzii croceater

  • Sensitive Species, U.S. Forest Service
  • Species of Special Concern, California Dep’t of Fish & Game

Yellow-blotched salamander. Photo © Gary Nafis.

The yellow-blotched salamander (also known as the yellow-blotched ensatina) is a medium-sized, brown to black nocturnal salamander that is found only in a very narrow range in South-Central California. It is one of seven subspecies of Ensatina eschscholtzii, each of which is found in a limited range in mountains and foothills encircling California’s Central Valley. The yellow-blotched ensatina occupies one of the smallest of these ranges; it’s limited only to the Tehachapi Mountains and extends into the Los Padres National Forest in the vicinity of Mt. Pinos, Frazier Mountain and Alamo Mountain.

As with many different salamanders and other amphibians, the yellow-blotched salamander prefers to inhabit cool, moist places, under the soil, under debris, or near water. It remains underground during hot and dry periods as well as during cold or very severe weather, and is most active during wet or rainy nights. The salamander breeds during the fall and spring and possibly throughout the winter, and lays its eggs underground or under debris, such as bark or rotting logs. The young salamanders are fully-formed when hatched.

On Alamo Mountain the yellow-blotched salamander inhabits a very narrow band of the forest, where the geology is such that there is an abundance of rock outcrops and springs, with corresponding moist soil and vegetation for cover. The salamander also thrives on the old growth nature of this forest, using fallen and rotting logs for hiding out in dry weather and laying its eggs. While the impact on the species from the 2006 Day Fire is not completely understood, fire most certainly has a negative impact on this species by not only killing those that can’t burrow deep enough, but also by removing the fallen vegetation on which the animals depend.

Impact of the Day Fire on the yellow-blotched salamander's habitat. Photo © Gary Nafis.

As Alamo Mountain recovers from the effects of the 2006 Day Fire, the remaining salamanders in the area are now more vulnerable to further disturbance, such as the proposed salvage logging operation along Alamo Mountain road. The presence of this species on Alamo Mountain is one reason ForestWatch is encouraging the Forest Service to conduct an Environmental Assessment before beginning their logging operation.

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