Plethodon vandykei - Van Denburgh, 1906
Van Dyke's Salamander
Other English Common Names: Van Dyke's salamander
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Plethodon vandykei Van Denburgh, 1906 (TSN 173671)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.100173
Element Code: AAAAD12190
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Salamanders
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Caudata Plethodontidae Plethodon
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: Plethodon vandykei
Taxonomic Comments: Plethodon vandykei and P. idahoensis formerly were regarded as conspecific (as. P. vandykei). Nussbaum et al. (1983) concluded that idahoensis is not distinct even as a subspecies. However, recent studies indicate that the two disjunct taxa are not conspecific. Howard et al. (1993) examained genetic variation and recommended that idahoensis be regarded as a distinct species; further, they noted some differentiation between coastal and Cascade populations in Washington and recommended further study of morphological differentiation. Results of a morphometric analysis led Wilson and Larsen (1999) to support recognition of P. vandykei and P. idahoensis as distinct species. These authors also detected significant differentiation between coastal and Cascade populations.

Mahoney (2001) used mtDNA data to examine phylogenetic relationships of western and eastern Plethodon and Aneides. She found strong support for eastern Plethodon as a clade, but monophyly of Aneides was only weakly supported in some analyses, though "the monophyly of this clade is not in doubt." Analyses indicated that Plethodon stormi and P. elongatus are clearly sister taxa, and P. dunni and P. vehiculum also are well-supported sister taxa. Plethodon larselli and P. vandykei appear to be closely related, whereas P. neomexicanus did not group with any other lineage. All analyses yielded a paraphyletic Plethodon but constraint analyses did not allow rejection of a monophyletic Plethodon. Mahoney recommended continued recognition of Aneides as a valid genus and adoption of the metataxon designation for Plethodon*, indicating this status with an asterisk. (A metataxon is a group of lineages for which neither monophyly nor paraphyly can be demonstrated.)
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 22Feb2005
Global Status Last Changed: 31Oct2001
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: About 96 isolated populations occur in three regions in Washington; less than 25% of occurrences have high viability; not very threatened, though industrial forestry could be detrimental by degrading required habitat conditions.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3 (05Nov1996)

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 Washington (S3)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 5000-200,000 square km (about 2000-80,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Willapa Hills, and Olympic and Cascade mountains, Washington; disjunct centers in the Willapa Hills, on the Olympic Peninsula, and in the southern Cascade Ranges are separated by glacial and alluvial deposits that may limit the regional distribution (Wilson et al. 1995). Generally occurs in small isolated populations.

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Approximately 96 occurrences have been documented since 1982 (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reptile and amphibian database, Olympia, WA. Retrieved October 2002).

In the Cascades, the Washington Herp Atlas (Hallock and McAllister 2002) mapped approximately 28 sites for years prior to 1979 and only about 8 sites for 1979-2001 (map symbols difficult to count).

Population Size: 2500 - 100,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds several thousand. Generally uncommon.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Some (13-40)
Viability/Integrity Comments: Approximately 22 occurrences have good viability. Element Occurrence rank specifications have not been written for this species. Occurrences were considered to have good viability if the habitat within 1 kilometer of the element observation was mature or late-seral forest. Element occurrences with multiple element observation locations were considered more viable than Element Occurrences with only a single observation location.

Overall Threat Impact: High - medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: The species is relatively sedentary, with narrow ecological tolerance that limit its ability to survive in or colonize disturbed habitats. Approximately 60% of the occurrences are in areas where timber has been harvested within 1 kilometer of the element observation and where additional harvests are probable. Although no definitive studies have been published to document losses from specific threats, timber harvest activities, especially clear-cutting, seem intrinsically detrimental for a species that requires cool temperatures and wet habitats. Clear-cutting has the potential of eliminating populations in areas where woody debris is the primary source of surface shelter and nesting sites (Wilson et al. 1995). The level of impact timber harvest will have on a population is expected to vary, depending on the level of disturbance to the microhabitats and microclimate (Welsh 1990). The Cascade Range populations are also threatened by volcanic activity. However, some populations survived in the blast zone of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens (Zalisko and Sites 1989) (the number of populations lost is unknown).

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: Stable to slight decline over past 20 years (J. Flackenstein, pers. comm., 1997).

Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-50%
Long-term Trend Comments: Populations have probably declined in the last 200 years (Wilson et al. 1995).

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable
Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Low reproductive rate.

Environmental Specificity: Narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements common.
Environmental Specificity Comments: Habitat affinities are poorly understood. Although usually associated with streams and seeps, it has been found in a variety of habitats (Leonard et al. 1993). This would suggest a generalist. However, its distribution is spotty across its range and it does not occur in many areas that appear to have suitable habitat (Wilson et al. 1995). This suggests that the species may have narrow ecological tolerances (Wilson et al. 1995).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: This species likely will benefit from existing/planned habitat protection for spotted owl (Thomas et al. 1993). It is important to protect riparian zones and leave adequate upland buffers next to them. Large woody debris, in various stages of decay, should be maintained near streams (Hallock and McAllister 2002).

Global Range: (5000-200,000 square km (about 2000-80,000 square miles)) Willapa Hills, and Olympic and Cascade mountains, Washington; disjunct centers in the Willapa Hills, on the Olympic Peninsula, and in the southern Cascade Ranges are separated by glacial and alluvial deposits that may limit the regional distribution (Wilson et al. 1995). Generally occurs in small isolated populations.

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: endemic to a single state or province

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States WA

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 (based on available natural heritage records unless otherwise indicated) Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
WA Clallam (53009)+, Cowlitz (53015)+, Grays Harbor (53027)+, Jefferson (53031)+, Lewis (53041)+, Mason (53045)+, Pacific (53049)+, Pierce (53053)+, Skamania (53059)+, Thurston (53067)+, Wahkiakum (53069)+
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
17 Lewis (17080002), Lower Columbia-Clatskanie (17080003), Upper Cowlitz (17080004), Lower Cowlitz (17080005), Lower Columbia (17080006), Hoh-Quillayute (17100101), Queets-Quinault (17100102), Upper Chehalis (17100103), Lower Chehalis (17100104), Grays Harbor (17100105), Willapa Bay (17100106), Puyallup (17110014), Nisqually (17110015), Skokomish (17110017), Hood Canal (17110018), Dungeness-Elwha (17110020)
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A slim-bodied lungless salamander.
Reproduction Comments: Terrestrial breeder. Nests found on the Olympic Peninsula (elevations below 700 meters) were laid in early May; development was completed by early October (Hallock and McAllister 2002). Females brood and guard the eggs during development.

Ecology Comments: Sympatric with P. DUNNI and P. VEHICULUM in some areas.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree, Forest - Conifer
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Van Dyke's Salamander is primarily associated with streams and seeps (Leonard et al. 1993, Wilson et al. 1995), but also occurs in upland forest (Slater 1933), talus (especially well-shaded, north-facing slopes) (Herrington 1988), lake shores (C. Crisafulli, personal communication) and cave entrances (Aubry et al. 1987). It can be found under bark, in and under logs, and in leaf litter in wet weather. The species is often most abundant in old forest stands that have complex stand structure and moderate to high levels of woody debris and colluvial rock present (Hallock and McAllister 2002).

Few clutches have been found. One nest was under a moss covered stone; eggs were in the usual grape-like cluster and attached to the stone by a single gelatinous thread, as in other Plethodon (Nussbaum et al. 1983). Another clutch was in a moist, partially rotted log along a stream in old-growth forest (western red-cedar/Douglas-fir/western hemlock/grand fir) in Washington (Jones, 1989, Herp. Rev. 20:48). Large decaying conifer logs near streams appear to be important habitat for nests (Blessing et al. 1999, Hallock and McAllister 2002).

Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Adult Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Most surface activity takes place in the spring after snowmelt and before summer drought and in the fall after the onset of fall rains and before temperatures approach freezing (Hallock and McAllister 2002).
Length: 12 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Monitoring Requirements: Monitor populations outside sanctuaries to determine effects of human activity (Wilson et al. 1995).

For a survey protocol, see(Jones (no date).

Biological Research Needs: Research is needed on seasonal habitat affinities and the effects of roads and forest practices on the species' habitat and its populations (Hallock and McAllister 2002).

Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Terrestrial Plethodontid 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 eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy highway, especially with high traffic volume at night; major river or lake; other totally inappropriate habitat that the salamanders cannot traverse.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 3 km
Separation Justification: These salamanders rarely successfully cross roadways that have heavy traffic volume at night, when most movements occur. Rivers and lakes pose formidable impediments to movement and generally function as barriers, with the effect increasing with river and lake size. Treatment of these as barriers or unsuitable habitat is a subjective determination.

Compared to larger ambystomatid salamanders, the movements of plethodontids are poorly documented, but it is clear that home ranges tend to be very small (e.g., Marvin 2001), on the order of a few meters to a few dozen meters in diameter. For example, Welsh and Lind (1992) found that over six months, 66% of Plethodon elongatus males and 80% of females recaptured were in the same 7.5 x 7.5 m grid, and the maximum distance moved was 36.2 m. D. Clayton (pers. comm 1998) estimated that average home ranges may be as small as one square meter. Yet, on occasion, dispersing plethodontids likely travel at least several hundred meters. The separation distance for unsuitable habitat reflects the nominal minimum value of 1 km. The separation distance for suitable habitat reflects the limited movements of these salamanders, tempered by their tendency to occur throughout patches of suitable habitat and the likely low probability that two 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): .1 km
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: 22Feb2005
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hallock, L., and G. Hammerson
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 21Feb2005
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society field guide to North American reptiles and amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 719 pp.

  • Blackburn, L., P. Nanjappa, and M. J. Lannoo. 2001. An Atlas of the Distribution of U.S. Amphibians. Copyright, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, USA.

  • Blessing, B. J., E. P. Phenix, L. L. C. Jones and M. G. Raphael. 1999. Nests of Van Dykes Salamander (Plethodon vandykei) from the Olympic Peninsula, Washington. Northwestern Naturalist 80: 77-81.

  • Brodie, E.D., Jr. and Storm, R.M. 1970. Plethodon vandykei. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 91:1-2.

  • Collins, J. T. 1991. Viewpoint: a new taxonomic arrangement for some North American amphibians and reptiles. SSAR Herpetol. Review 22:42-43.

  • 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.

  • Hallock, L. A., and K. R. McAllister. 2002. Van Dyke's salamander. Washington Herp Atlas. ttp://

  • Howard, J. H., L. W. Seeb, and R. Wallace. 1993. Genetic variation and population divergence in the PLETHODON VANDYKEI species group (Caudata: Plethodontidae). Herpetologica 49:238-247.

  • Jones, L.L. C. 1989. Plethodon vandykei (Van Dyke's salamander). Reproduction. Herp Review 20(2):48.

  • Jones, L.L.C. No date. Survey protocol for the Van Dyke's salamander.

  • Jones, L.L.C., W. P. Leonard, and D. H. Olson, editors. 2005. Amphibians of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle, Washington. xii + 227 pp.

  • Mahoney, M. J. 2001. Molecular systematics of Plethodon and Aneides (Caudata: Plethodontini): phylogenetic analysis of an old and rapid radiation. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 18:174-188.

  • Nordstrom, N. and R. Milner. 1997. Van Dyke's Salamander. Pages 2-1 to 2-14 in: E.M. Larsen, ed. Management recommendations for Washington's priority species, Volume III: Amphibians and Reptiles. Washing Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, WA.

  • Nussbaum, R.A., E.D. Brodie, Jr., and R.M. Storm. 1983. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. University Press of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho. 332 pp.

  • Slater, J.R. 1933. Notes on Washington salamanders. Copeia 1933:44.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 1985a. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Second edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. xiv + 336 pp.

  • Thomas, J. W., Ward, J., Raphael, M.G., Anthony, R.G., Forsman, E.D., Gunderson, A.G., Holthausen, R.S., Marcot, B.G., Reeves, G.H., Sedell, J.R. and Solis, D.M. 1993. Viability assessments and management considerations for species associated with late-successional and old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. The report of the Scientific Analysis Team. USDA Forest Service, Spotted Owl EIS Team, Portland Oregon. 530 pp.

  • Wilson, A. G., E. Simon, and J. H. Larsen, Jr. 1989. Range extension for the Coeur d'Alene salamander, PLETHODON VANDYKEI IDAHOENSIS, to the Canada-United States border. Canadian Field-Nat. 103:93-94.

  • Wilson, A. G., Jr., J. H. Larsen, Jr., and K. R. McAllister. 1995a. Distribution of Van Dyke's Salamander (PLETHODON VANDYKEI Van Denburgh). American Midland Naturalist 134:388-93.

  • Wilson, A. G., Jr., and J. H. Larsen, Jr. 1999. Morphometric analysis of salamanders of the Plethodon vandykei species group. American Midland Naturalist 141:266-276.

Use Guidelines & Citation

Use Guidelines and Citation

The Small Print: Trademark, Copyright, Citation Guidelines, Restrictions on Use, and Information Disclaimer.

Note: All species and ecological community data presented in NatureServe Explorer at were updated to be current with NatureServe's central databases as of March 2018.
Note: This report was printed on

Trademark Notice: "NatureServe", NatureServe Explorer, The NatureServe logo, and all other names of NatureServe programs referenced herein are trademarks of NatureServe. Any other product or company names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

Copyright Notice: Copyright © 2018 NatureServe, 4600 N. Fairfax Dr., 7th Floor, Arlington Virginia 22203, U.S.A. All Rights Reserved. Each document delivered from this server or web site may contain other proprietary notices and copyright information relating to that document. The following citation should be used in any published materials which reference the web site.

Citation for data on website including State Distribution, Watershed, and Reptile Range maps:
NatureServe. 2018. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Accessed:

Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Bird Range Maps of North America:
"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:

Restrictions on Use: Permission to use, copy and distribute documents delivered from this server is hereby granted under the following conditions:
  1. The above copyright notice must appear in all copies;
  2. Any use of the documents available from this server must be for informational purposes only and in no instance for commercial purposes;
  3. Some data may be downloaded to files and altered in format for analytical purposes, however the data should still be referenced using the citation above;
  4. No graphics available from this server can be used, copied or distributed separate from the accompanying text. Any rights not expressly granted herein are reserved by NatureServe. Nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring by implication, estoppel, or otherwise any license or right under any trademark of NatureServe. No trademark owned by NatureServe may be used in advertising or promotion pertaining to the distribution of documents delivered from this server without specific advance permission from NatureServe. Except as expressly provided above, nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring any license or right under any NatureServe copyright.
Information Warranty Disclaimer: All documents and related graphics provided by this server and any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server are provided "as is" without warranty as to the currentness, completeness, or accuracy of any specific data. NatureServe hereby disclaims all warranties and conditions with regard to any documents provided by this server or any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server, including but not limited to all implied warranties and conditions of merchantibility, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. NatureServe makes no representations about the suitability of the information delivered from this server or any other documents that are referenced to or linked to this server. In no event shall NatureServe be liable for any special, indirect, incidental, consequential damages, or for damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information contained in any documents provided by this server or in any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server, under any theory of liability used. NatureServe may update or make changes to the documents provided by this server at any time without notice; however, NatureServe makes no commitment to update the information contained herein. Since the data in the central databases are continually being updated, it is advisable to refresh data retrieved at least once a year after its receipt. The data provided is for planning, assessment, and informational purposes. Site specific projects or activities should be reviewed for potential environmental impacts with appropriate regulatory agencies. If ground-disturbing activities are proposed on a site, the appropriate state natural heritage program(s) or conservation data center can be contacted for a site-specific review of the project area (see Visit Local Programs).

Feedback Request: NatureServe encourages users to let us know of any errors or significant omissions that you find in the data through (see Contact Us). Your comments will be very valuable in improving the overall quality of our databases for the benefit of all users.