Ambystoma macrodactylum - Baird, 1849
Long-toed Salamander
Other English Common Names: long-toed salamander
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Ambystoma macrodactylum Baird, 1850 (TSN 173601)
French Common Names: salamandre longs doigts
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.106403
Element Code: AAAAA01080
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Salamanders
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Caudata Ambystomatidae Ambystoma
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B85FRO01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Ambystoma macrodactylum
Taxonomic Comments: For phylogenetic analyses of North American Ambystoma, see Kraus (1988), Shaffer et al. (1991), and Jones et al. (1993).

Five subspecies are currently recognized, one occurs in Alaska. It has been suggested that the mainland and island population in the vicinity of the Stikine River of coastal Alaska are phenotypically and taxonomically distinct (MacDonald 2003).
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 05Jun2015
Global Status Last Changed: 14Dec2001
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Nov1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N4N5 (02Aug2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alaska (S3), California (SNR), Idaho (S5), Montana (S4), Oregon (S5), Washington (S5)
Canada Alberta (S3), British Columbia (S5)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): PS
Comments on USESA: Subspecies croceum of california is listed by USFWS as endangered.
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Not at Risk (29Apr2006)
Comments on COSEWIC: Reason for Designation: Despite high rates of habitat loss due to anthropogenic development in British Columbia's Lower Mainland and eastern Vancouver Island regions, which put stress upon native amphibians in general, and previous concerns over the status of Alberta populations, the species remains widespread and abundant throughout the majority of its Canadian range.

Status History: Designated Not at Risk in April 2006. More recently (2015), considered a low priority candidate for re-assessment.

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range extends from southeastern Alaska southward to Tuolumne County, California, east to Rocky Mountains (east to east-central British Columbia, west-central Alberta, western Montana, and central Idaho). Isolated populations exist in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, California (Bury et al. 1980). Elevational range extends from sea level to about 10,000 feet (Stebbins 1985).

Area of Occupancy: Unknown 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Many occurrences.

Population Size: 100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds 100,000.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Unknown

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: In the Cascades of northern Washington, larval abundance was related to both lake productivity and the presence of introduced trout (reduced larval abundance when trout present) (Tyler et al. 1998). In Montana, introduced trout populations clearly excluded salamanders from lakes (Funk and Dunlap 1999).

In developed areas, the destruction of wetland habitats may be the greatest threat. Human disturbance such as road and trail construction, timber harvest, grazing, and fire management may result in fragmentation of terrestrial habitat and breeding ponds (Fukumoto 1995 in Graham and Powell 1999, Maxell 2000, Paton 2002).

Larvae are sensitive to a combination of low pH and aluminum.

In the Pacific Northwest, this species appears to be particularly sensitive to UV-B exposure (Belden et al. 2000). Possible effects of exposure to UV-B include increased mortality and incidence of deformities, slowed growth, and skin darkening (Belden and Blaustein 2002).

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Trends have not been well documented in most of the range, but area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size probably are relatively stable or declining at a rate of less than 30 percent over 10 years or three generations.

Long-term Trend: Decline of <50% to Relatively Stable

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements common.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: Would benefit from protection of habitat near breeding ponds (Bury et al. 1980). Prohibit introductions of non-native fishes in salamander habitat.

Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Range extends from southeastern Alaska southward to Tuolumne County, California, east to Rocky Mountains (east to east-central British Columbia, west-central Alberta, western Montana, and central Idaho). Isolated populations exist in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, California (Bury et al. 1980). Elevational range extends from sea level to about 10,000 feet (Stebbins 1985).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK, CA, ID, MT, OR, WA
Canada AB, BC

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at

Range Map Compilers: IUCN, Conservation International, NatureServe, and collaborators, 2004

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AK Juneau (02110), Ketchikan Gateway (02130), Wrangell-Petersburg (CA) (02280)
CA Alpine (06003), Amador (06005), Butte (06007), Calaveras (06009), El Dorado (06017), Lassen (06035), Modoc (06049), Monterey (06053), Nevada (06057), Placer (06061), Plumas (06063), Santa Cruz (06087), Shasta (06089), Sierra (06091), Siskiyou (06093), Tehama (06103), Trinity (06105), Tuolumne (06109), Yuba (06115)
ID Ada (16001), Adams (16003), Benewah (16009)*, Blaine (16013), Boise (16015), Bonner (16017), Boundary (16021), Butte (16023), Camas (16025), Clearwater (16035), Custer (16037), Elmore (16039), Gooding (16047), Idaho (16049), Kootenai (16055), Latah (16057), Lemhi (16059), Lewis (16061), Lincoln (16063), Nez Perce (16069), Shoshone (16079), Valley (16085), Washington (16087)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
16 Lake Tahoe (16050101)+, Truckee (16050102)+, Upper Carson (16050201)+
17 Lower Kootenai (17010104)+, Moyie (17010105)+, Pend Oreille Lake (17010214)+*, Priest (17010215)+, Upper Coeur D'alene (17010301)+, South Fork Coeur D'alene (17010302)+, Coeur D'alene Lake (17010303)+*, St. Joe (17010304)+, Upper Spokane (17010305)+, Hangman (17010306)+*, Little Lost (17040217)+, Big Lost (17040218)+, Big Wood (17040219)+, Camas (17040220)+*, Little Wood (17040221)+, C. J. Idaho (17050101)+, North and Middle Forks Boise (17050111)+, Boise-Mores (17050112)+, South Fork Boise (17050113)+, Lower Boise (17050114)+, South Fork Payette (17050120)+, North Fork Payette (17050123)+, Weiser (17050124)+*, Brownlee Reservoir (17050201)+, Hells Canyon (17060101)+, Lower Snake-Asotin (17060103)+, Palouse (17060108)+, Upper Salmon (17060201)+, Middle Salmon-Panther (17060203)+, Lemhi (17060204)+, Upper Middle Fork Salmon (17060205)+, Lower Middle Fork Salmon (17060206)+, Middle Salmon-Chamberlain (17060207)+, Lower Salmon (17060209)+, Little Salmon (17060210)+, Lochsa (17060303)+, South Fork Clearwater (17060305)+, Clearwater (17060306)+, Upper North Fork Clearwater (17060307)+, Lower North Fork Clearwater (17060308)+
18 Butte (18010205)+, Upper Klamath (18010206)+, Shasta (18010207)+, Scott (18010208)+, Salmon (18010210)+, Trinity (18010211)+, Goose Lake (18020001)+, Lower Pit (18020003)+, Mccloud (18020004)+*, Sacramento headwaters (18020005)+, North Fork Feather (18020121)+, East Branch North Fork Feather (18020122)+, Middle Fork Feather (18020123)+, Upper Yuba (18020125)+, Upper Bear (18020126)+, North Fork American (18020128)+, South Fork American (18020129)+, Cow Creek (18020151)+, Battle Creek (18020153)+, Clear Creek-Sacramento River (18020154)+, Thomes Creek-Sacramento River (18020156)+, Big Chico Creek-Sacramento River (18020157)+, Butte Creek (18020158)+, Upper Stanislaus (18040010)+, Upper Mokelumne (18040012)+, Upper Cosumnes (18040013)+, San Lorenzo-Soquel (18060001)+, Pajaro (18060002)+, Alisal-Elkhorn Sloughs (18060011)+, Honey-Eagle Lakes (18080003)+
19 Ketchikan (19010102)+, Mainland (19010201)+, Taku River (19010304)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A salamander.
Reproduction Comments: Breeding season is longer and earlier (fall-early spring) in coastal lowlands, shorter and later (summer) in interior mtns. Clutch size is larger at lower elevations (Howard and Wallace 1985). Larvae metamorphose in first summer or overwinter (high elevations). In Alberta, sexually mature in 2+ years; maximum life span 10 years, usually 6 years or less (Russell et al. 1996).
Ecology Comments: Predators of larvae probably include aquatic insects and garter snakes; garter snakes and bullfrogs eat adults (Nussbaum et al. 1983).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Migrates between breeding ponds and nonbreeding habitat; usually migrates at night in conjunction with precipitation. Males reach ponds before females and stay longer.
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, Low gradient, Moderate gradient, Pool
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian, TEMPORARY POOL
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Grassland/herbaceous, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Found in a wide variety of habitats, from semiarid sagebrush deserts to sub-alpine meadows, including dry woodlands, humid forests, and rocky shores of mountain lakes. Adults are subterranean except during the breeding season. A terrestrial habitat use survey near Hinton, Alberta determined that individuals were found primarily in well-drained areas with thick litter on the forest floor and close to relatively permanent water bodies (Graham 1997). Salamanders were also found in seral stages ranging from three-year-old clear-cuts to 180-year-old forests and occurred in active logging areas (Graham 1997). Breeds in temporary or permanent ponds, or in quiet water at the edge of lakes and streams. During the breeding season adults may be found under logs, rocks, and other debris near water. Eggs are attached to vegetation or loose on bottom.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Larvae feed on zooplankton, immature insects, snails, and occasionally other salamander larvae, including conspecifics. Adults eat terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates including: insects, insect larvae, spiders, slugs, earthworms, amphipods, etc.
Adult Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: May be active almost all winter in Pacific Northwest coastal ponds (Stebbins 1985).
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 17 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Restoration Potential: In Montana, salamanders recolonized high-elevation lakes after the extirpation of introduced trout (Funk and Dunlap 1999).
Management Requirements: Fisheries management could improve the status of salamander populations by not introducing fishes into salamander habitats where fishes are not native. Removal of non-native fishes from otherwise favorable salamander habitat is appropriate in many locations.

Fisheries management could improve the status of salamander populations by preventing introduction of fishes into salamander habitats where fishes are not native. Removal of non-native fishes from otherwise favorable salamander habitat is appropriate in many locations. Montana researchers recommend using only herbicide and pesticide brands that rapidly decompose and not spraying within 300m of water bodies or wetlands (Joslin and Youmans 1999 in Paton 2002). Logging activities in areas with long-toed salamanders should be scheduled to occur during the winter to minimize soil compaction and litter layer disturbance (Graham 1997, Paton 2002).

Management Research Needs: Information on genetic variation on a large scale (subspecies) and population scale would be useful for management decision-making (Graham and Powell 1999)
Biological Research Needs: Since there can be significant year to year variation in population size, long-term monitoring is necessary to determine population trends (Graham and Powell 1999, Paton 2002).
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Ambystomatid Salamanders

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including larvae or eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Heavily traveled road, especially at night during salamander breeding season, such that salamanders almost never successfully traverse the road; road with a barrier that is impermeable to salamanders; wide, fast rivers; areas of intensive development dominated by buildings and pavement.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 3 km
Separation Justification: BARRIERS/UNSUITABLE HABITAT: Rivers may or may not be effective barriers, depending on stream width and hydrodynamics; identification of streams as barriers is a subjective determination. Bodies of water dominated by predatory fishes have been described as barriers but probably should be regarded as unsuitable habitat. For A. barbouri, a stream-pool breeder, predatory fishes appeared to act as a barrier to larval dispersal and gene flow for populations separated by as little as 500-1000 m (Storfer 1999). Highly disturbed land, such as the cleared and bedded soils of some silvicultural site preparation, may serve as an impediment to movement of A. cingulatum (Means et al. 1996), although Ashton (1998) noted the species' use of pine plantations, pastures, and three-year-old clearcuts. Such areas should be treated as unsuitable habitat rather than barriers.

MOVEMENTS: Palis's (1997b) suggested use of 3.2 km between breeding sites to distinguish breeding populations of A. cingulatum was based on Ashton's (1992) finding that individuals may move as much as 1.6 km from their breeding ponds. Ambystoma californiense sometimes migrates up to 2 km between breeding ponds and terrestrial habitat (see USFWS 2004). Funk and Dunlap (1999) found that A. macrodactylum managed to recolonize lakes after trout extirpation despite evidence of low levels of interpopulation dispersal. Based on a review of several Ambystoma species (e.g., Semlitsch 1981, Douglas and Monroe 1981, Kleeberger and Werner 1983, Madison 1997), Semlitsch (1998) concluded that a radius of less than 200 meters around a breeding pond would likely encompass the terrestrial habitat used by more than 95 percent of adults. Faccio's (2003) study of radio-tagged A. maculatum and A. jeffersonianum in Vermont supports this conclusion. In New York, all movements of A. tigrinum occurred in areas within 300 m of the nearest breeding pond (Madison and Farrand 1998). However, most studies of these salamanders had small sample sizes and/or were not designed to detect long-distance movements, so migration distance may be somewhat underestimated.

In summary, ambystomatid salamanders generally stay within a few hundred meters of their breeding pool. Due to high breeding site fidelity and limitation of breeding to pool basins, populations using different breeding sites exhibit little or no interbreeding among adults. Thus one might argue that each pool constitutes a separate occurrence or that the separation distance for suitable habitat should be the nominal minimum of 1 km. However, little is known about how frequently first-time (or experienced) breeders use non-natal pools (pools from which they did not originate) or how far they may move to such sites. Frequent colonization of new and remote habitats by at least some species suggests that dispersal movements sometimes may be longer than typical adult migration distances. It seems unlikely that locations separated by a gap of less than a few kilometers of suitable habitat would represent independent occurrences over the long term.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .3 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Inferred extent distance pertains to breeding sites (with the center of the circle in the center of the breeding site). Most ambystomatids stay within a few hundred meters of their breeding pool (see separation justification section).
Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 02May2011
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G., and T. A. Gotthardt. Rev. by S. MacDonald, University of New Mexico; B. Anderson, National Park Service, Anchorage, AK.

Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 22Feb2006
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G., and T. Gotthardt. Reviewed by Stephen MacDonald and Blain Anderson.

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"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE."

Citation for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
Patterson, B.D., G. Ceballos, W. Sechrest, M.F. Tognelli, T. Brooks, L. Luna, P. Ortega, I. Salazar, and B.E. Young. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."

Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."

NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:

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