Species Profile

Coastal Giant Salamander

Scientific Name: Dicamptodon tenebrosus
Other/Previous Names: Pacific Giant Salamander
Taxonomy Group: Amphibians
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2014
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A3c+4c
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: The Canadian distribution of this salamander is restricted to the Chilliwack drainage system in southwestern British Columbia, where it occurs mainly in cool, clear mountain streams and surrounding riparian forest. Major threats include habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation due to forest harvest, road building, and encroaching residential development. These threats may be exacerbated by droughts and flooding events that are predicted to increase with climate change. Poor dispersal ability, low reproductive rate, late maturity, and long generation time increase the vulnerability of the species.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in April 1989. Status re-examined and designated Threatened in November 2000 and May 2014.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Coastal Giant Salamander

Coastal Giant Salamander Photo 1

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Description

The Coastal Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus), formerly known as the Pacific Giant Salamander, is a large stream-dwelling salamander. The genus Dicamptodon consists of four species in the Pacific Northwest; only the Coastal Giant Salamander is found in Canada. The salamanders can attain a total length of 35 cm (including tail). Coastal Giant Salamanders have an aquatic and a terrestrial life stage. Aquatic larvae have a dark back with light underbelly, shovel-shaped head, external gills, and tail fin. Larvae can attain sexual maturity and remain aquatic (neotenic) or transform into terrestrial adults; neotenic adults remain obligate stream-dwellers. Terrestrial adults are robust and broad-headed; the colour is dark brown to black on the back usually with tan or copper marbling. This species is the largest semi-aquatic salamander in North America and the only salamander capable of true vocalizations with adults emitting bark-like cries when disturbed. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Distribution and Population

The distribution of the Coastal Giant Salamander extends along the west coast of North America from southwestern British Columbia, through the Cascade and Coast mountain ranges, to northwestern California. In Canada, the Coastal Giant Salamander occurs only in extreme southwestern British Columbia south of the Fraser River in the Chilliwack and adjacent small drainages. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Habitat

The Coastal Giant Salamander has been found at elevations from sea level to 2160 m in a variety of lotic environments ranging from small seepages and mountain streams to large rivers and lakes. They breed mostly in mountain streams, where larvae spend multiple years developing. A number of factors influence the species’ occurrence in streams, including elevation, stand age of surrounding forest, gradient, substrate, wetted width, and riparian forest cover. Transformed juveniles and adults inhabit surrounding riparian and upland forests. Terrestrial Coastal Giant Salamanders are usually found in close proximity (within 50 m) to streams, where they utilize a variety of refuge sites such as root channels, spaces under logs and rocks, and small mammal burrows. Studies have shown that larvae and adults move relatively little, and individual salamanders may spend their entire life cycle in one stream. Connectivity among populations is likely maintained through dispersing adults moving along streams or across upland forest. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Biology

The reproductive biology of the Coastal Giant Salamander in British Columbia is poorly known. The female deposits a clutch of 135-200 eggs on the underside of a rock in an aquatic nest chamber within a creek or stream, probably once every 2 years. Larvae may take up to 6 years to reach metamorphosis. The best approximation of life span comes from studies of similarly sized aquatic salamanders, which may live up to 25 years in captivity. The generation time is thought to be 10 – 15 years. Coastal Giant Salamanders are highly dependent on moisture, the availability of which constrains their activity and movements. Chilliwack Valley is the northern limit of the Coastal Giant Salamander’s distribution, and low temperatures and short growing season may limit its occurrence both northwards and upwards in elevation. In British Columbia, larvae are rarely detected in streams until water temperatures rise above 5°C, and they become sluggish at temperatures >20°C, suggesting these temperatures approximate the limit of their thermal tolerance. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Threats

Main threats to Coastal Giant Salamanders are from logging that continues to degrade habitats across the species’ Canadian range and from siltation of breeding streams resulting from erosion and surface run-off associated with roads and forestry activities. Urban development and run-of-river energy projects pose additional threats to local populations. The Coastal Giant Salamander occurs mainly in and around mid-elevation streams, and its occurrence and breeding activity, in particular in main stems at lower elevations, are curtailed by introduced predatory fish. Thus, even if forested stream buffers are left in otherwise deforested terrain, overland dispersal can be expected to be severely restricted, accentuating inter-stream isolation and population fragmentation. More frequent and severe droughts and flooding events are expected to accentuate impacts of human activities on these salamanders. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Coastal Giant Salamander is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Coastal Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus) in British Columbia 2003 to 2008
Status Preliminary draft received by leads

Name Recovery Strategy for the Coastal Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Coastal/Pacific Giant Salamander Recovery Team

  • Kym Welstead - Chair/Contact - Government of BC
    Phone: 604-582-5279  Fax: 604-930-7119  Send Email

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date The Coastal Giant Salamander recovery team aims to ensure a self-sustaining population of the salamander within its current and historical range. A key focus of the team is protecting over 50% of streams with Coastal Giant Salamanders; some streams are currently protected in parks and more will be protected through the establishment of Wildlife Habitat Areas on Crown land. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Habitat mapping for the Coastal Giant Salamander has been initiated and a monitoring program for the salamander is currently being developed. University researchers have conducted extensive studies of the Coastal Giant Salamander since 1994, investigating habitat requirements and forestry impacts upon the salamander. In 1996, researchers investigated how far salamanders moved from a stream into the forest in an effort to assess the potential of "between-stream" salamander colonization and to estimate the required width of riparian buffer strips to preserve necessary habitat. In 2002, the provincial government used this, and other studies, to determine that 50 meter buffers on streams (30 m core “no touch” and 20 m management zone) would be sufficient to maintain habitat quality. This buffer prescription will be included in any Wildlife Habitat Areas that are created for Coastal Giant Salamanders. Summary of Recovery Activities Coastal Giant Salamander habitat is protected in several parks. The majority of its habitat is on Crown land managed for forestry. The recovery team, in cooperation with forestry companies, aims to protect salamander habitat on Crown land through the establishment of Wildlife Habitat Areas, in which harvesting and road construction are restricted. The BC Government has produced Best Management Practices guidelines for herptiles that the recovery team is hoping will be used by local and regional governments to regulate residential land developments near Coastal Giant Salamander habitat. URLs Province of British Columbia: Coastal Giant Salamander:http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/identified/documents/Amphibians/a_coastalgiantsalamander.pdf Wildlife at Risk in BC:http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/salamander.pdf

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

9 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Coastal Giant Salamander Dicamptodon tenebrosus in Canada (2014-11-28)

    The Coastal Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus), formerly known as the Pacific Giant Salamander, is a large stream-dwelling salamander. The genus Dicamptodon consists of four species in the Pacific Northwest; only the Coastal Giant Salamander is found in Canada. The salamanders can attain a total length of 35 cm (including tail). Coastal Giant Salamanders have an aquatic and a terrestrial life stage. Aquatic larvae have a dark back with light underbelly, shovel-shaped head, external gills, and tail fin. Larvae can attain sexual maturity and remain aquatic (neotenic) or transform into terrestrial adults; neotenic adults remain obligate stream-dwellers. Terrestrial adults are robust and broad-headed; the colour is dark brown to black on the back usually with tan or copper marbling. This species is the largest semi-aquatic salamander in North America and the only salamander capable of true vocalizations with adults emitting bark-like cries when disturbed.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Coastal Giant Salamander (2015-01-13)

    The Canadian distribution of this salamander is restricted to the Chilliwack drainage system in southwestern British Columbia, where it occurs mainly in cool, clear mountain streams and surrounding riparian forest. Major threats include habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation due to forest harvest, road building, and encroaching residential development. These threats may be exacerbated by droughts and flooding events that are predicted to increase with climate change. Poor dispersal ability, low reproductive rate, late maturity, and long generation time increase the vulnerability of the species.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Coastal Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus) in Canada (2017-12-20)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister under SARA for the Coastal Giant Salamander and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of British Columbia as per section 39(1) of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Province of British Columbia provided the attached recovery strategy for the Coastal Giant Salamander (Part 2) as science advice to the jurisdictions responsible for managing the species in British Columbia. It was prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2013-2014 (2014-10-15)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species". COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2013 to September, 2014) from November 24 to November 29, 2013 and from April 27 to May 2, 2014. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 0 Endangered: 23 Threatened: 12 Special Concern: 20 Data Deficient: 0 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 56 Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 25 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#59-04-0400), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2004-08-17)

    This project involves surveys of an Indian Reserve for the presence or non-detection of Coastal Giant Salamanders (Dicamptodon tenebrosus). The Inventory Methods for Coastal Giant Salamander formulated by the Resource Inventory Committee will be strictly followed to complete these surveys.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SARA-PYR-2010-0148), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2010-06-03)

    The proposed activity involves restoration of the lower end of an unnamed creek in the Columbia Valley below Vedder Mountain on DND property. The location proposed for stream restoration is downstream of the areas in which the SAR have been observed, therefore the risk of negative impacts to the SAR during restoration activity is low. The restoration work will increase habitat for species and stabilize the flow of the creek by providing appropriate native riparian vegetation.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SARA-PYR-2010-0159), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2010-11-01)

    The proposed activity involves restoration of the lower end of an unnamed creek on DND property. The location proposed for stream restoration is downstream of the areas in which the SAR have been observed, therefore the risk of negative impacts to the SAR during restoration activity is low. The restoration work will increase habitat for species and stabilize the flow of the creek by providing appropriate native riparian vegetation.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act : Terrestrial Species - January 2015 (2015-01-13)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection of prohibitions and recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 521 wildlife species at risk. Please submit your comments byApril 15, 2015, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultationsand byOctober 15, 2015, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please see:Species at Risk Public Registry website

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update December 2, 2021
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