Wanted Dead Or Alive

Red Hills Salamander

Red Hills Salamander

The range of the Red Hills salamander is restricted to a narrow belt of two geological formations.The range is limited on the east by the Conecuh River and on the west by the Alabama River.

Description

A large (max. total length approx. 25.5 terrestrial salamander with a prehensile tail almost as long 47 percent of total length as body. Body and tail uniformly dark brown to dark gray. Body elongate, with 20 to 22 coastal grooves. Front (four toes) and hind legs (five toes) relatively short and stout. More than 12 intercostal folds between ad­pressed limbs.

Habitat

Fossorial, on steep slopes of ravines and bluffs dominated by hardwood trees. Older growth timber preferred. Outcroppings or layers of silt stone or clay stone near the surface, with which the burrows are typically associated, may be required. Weathering of these materials causes deep cracks and fissures that are inhabited by the salamander and that are believed to provide appropriate levels of burrow humidity during doughty periods. Complete removal of forest canopy in most cases results in extirpation of a resident population. In occupied habitats, loamy, friable topsoil are usually present, and ground-dwelling arthropods abundant.

How is Red Hills Salamander labeled?

The Red Hills salamander is a large, burrowing species that grows to a length of 250 mm

Endangered Species

Because Red Hills salamanders live in such a small area, and because of disruption to their habitat, the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies them as endangered. Timber harvesting is one of the biggest factors harming their habitat. The reduction in Red Hills salamander numbers is also a result of their very slow reproduction cycle. Wild pigs also might be responsible for the slowing of population. In 1976, these salamanders first received protection from the federal government.

Physical Appearance of the Red Hills Salamander

Within the salamander world, the Red Hills variety is certainly on the large side. These lithe salamanders can reach lengths of up to 10 inches, with tails roughly half as long as their bodies. The tails are very useful in that they can clutch onto things. Red Hills salamanders are deep gray or deep brown.

Facts

- The Red Hills salamander is a big amphibian who leads a very clandestine lifestyle.

- Skilled burrowers are very difficult to happen upon, especially as they spend the bulk of their daytime hours underground.

- Red Hills salamanders do not possess lungs; they breathe through their skin.

History

It was discovered in 1960 and seldom emerges completely from its underground refuge, hunting for invertebrate prey at night at the entrance of its retreat. It lives in steep slopes along damp ravines covered by hardwood forest. Around 60% of its habitat is owned or leased by paper companies that are degrading and destroying this species’ habitat by timber harvest and pine plantations. Six Habitat Conservation Plans for populations of Red Hills salamanders (covering approximately 25,169 hectares) have been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in cooperation with timber companies in southern Alabama.