Status of the Larch Mountain Salamander (Plethodon larselli) in Washington

Executive Summary

The Larch Mountain salamander (Plerhodon larselli) is a small, lungless salamander found only in Washington and Oregon. It lives in rock fields known as talus and in the lava rock rubble associated with the lava tubes of the southern Cascade Mountains of Washington. The species has specialized microhabitat requirements that restrict it to specific sites, most often on steep wooded slopes where talus is comprised of rocks 1-6 cm (0.5-2.5 in) in length. Currently, populations are known from 35 sites in Washington; 29 in Skamania County, 3 in Klickitat County, 2 in Lewis County, and 1 in Clark County.

In the past, populations have been affected by rock removal for road building, degradation of microhabitat conditions through logging of overstory trees, and permanent loss of talus fields to a variety of human developments . Rock removal for road-building usually involves removal of rock from the base of a talus covered slope. As a result, the entire talus field shifts and eroding soil fills crevices, rendering the talus unsuitable for salamanders. Forest overstory removal exposes the talus to temperature extremes that cannot be endured by the salamanders.

Since 1980, the Larch Mountain salamander has been placed on the U.S . Forest Service Regional Forester 's sensitive species list, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Candidate Category 2 species list, the Washington Department of Wildlife list of Candidate species and its list of Priority Species. As a result, the needs of the Larch Mountain salamander are being considered in all federal or federally permitted projects, forest practices review , road construction projects, various activities at the county planning level, and in the review of a variety of land uses regulated by the Columbia River Gorge Commission.

Although existing management is providing habitat security in most areas, a comprehensive approach to habitat protection is needed. Laws requiring habitat protection are currently lacking though they may prove necessary. Cooperative efforts to conserve habitat must continue and, ideally, be strengthened. Plans for long-term habitat protection need to be developed and agreed to by the agencies and individuals involved. The Larch Mountain salamander is vulnerable to habitat alteration. At this time, long-term survival of Larch Mountain salamanders is possible if land use management continues to consider the species' needs. Searches for new populations must continue as well.

It is recommended that the Larch Mountain salamander be designated a sensitive species in Washington.

Suggested citation

Washington Department of Wildlife. 1993. Status of the Larch Mountain salamander (Plethodon larselli) in Washington. Unpubl. Rep. Wash. Dept. Wildl., Olympia.