Amphibian Species at Risk
California Tiger Salamander Ambystoma californiense (CSC, FT)
The tiger salamander now breeds primarily in vernal (seasonal) pools and small, fishless ponds (including farm ponds). The salamanders remain upland in rodent burrows for most of the year and emerge in winter of wetter years to breed (mostly a single breeding attempt). Many populations have been eliminated by development and/or by the introduction of predatory fish to permanent ponds, resulting in either a lack of breeding or suitable upland habitat. Most existing populations are probably isolated from each other. Within the bioregion, the remaining populations may be mostly within the Pajaro River and adjacent watersheds, although they are also present on Stanford University property.
Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum (SE, FE)
An isolated subspecies restricted to fishless or seasonal ponds between Aptos and the Elkhorn Slough watershed (especially the Ellicott Pond preserve near Watsonville). Like the tiger salamander, adults breed after heavy rains in winter and larvae develop quickly and migrate upland by early to mid-summer. They were probably lost from many of their original habitats due to early development and introductions of predatory fish. They have gradually been disappearing from the remaining documented, but isolated, breeding habitats.
California Giant Salamander Dicamptodon ensatus (CSC)
The California giant salamander was split as a separate species from the Pacific giant salamander, with the boundary between the two in Mendocino County, and the southern boundary of the California giant salamander at the Santa Cruz County line. Both are coastal species, which reproduce in cooler, generally headwater streams, often above barriers to fish. The larvae spend 1 1/2 years in the stream, but can also sexually mature and remain in the stream and reproduce without losing their gills (paedomorphism). Terrestrial adults are usually hidden under moist cover objects or underground, and are rarely encountered except during rainy periods. Because of their cryptic habits as adults, most records are of larvae captured in streams. Little is known of their status, but they can be impacted by land-use changes and streamside logging. They can apparently be quite abundant; during a moderate first fall rain, dozens we seen peeking from bank and upslope burrows, during a nighttime eyeshine survey for red-legged frogs.
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Aneides flavipunctatus niger (CSC)
The black salamander is a lungless salamander that lays its eggs in moist habitats on land in summer. They are most often found under rocks and logs in relatively moist habitats (riparian woodlands, mixed evergreen and conifer forests). Black Salamanders in the Santa Cruz Mountains were designated a separate subspecies based upon their geographic isolation and different ecology and coloration (they lack the small spots of populations north of San Francisco Bay). They are hidden under rocks or logs and active at night, so are difficult to locate. They are apparently relatively scarce and may be declining in the bioregion. Black salamanders in the north coast of California are more common.
California Red-legged Frog Rana draytonii (FT, CSC)
This is a large frog of lowland streams and ponds, but is now largely replaced by bullfrogs in inland and large coastal watersheds. Red-legged frogs are apparently doing well in coastal watersheds without bullfrogs. Red-legged frogs breed early in winter and are able to use seasonal habitats because of mid to late summer metamorphosis. They are usually absent from permanent ponds and streams with predatory fish and bullfrogs, but may coexist if frequent floods or pond drying depress bullfrog abundance (bullfrog tadpoles normally require 1 year to metamorphose). Red-legged frogs prefer partially shaded, low gradient streams with deep pools, steep, vegetated banks and woody debris as escape cover. They may migrate more than 1 mile to and from breeding habitats, which appear to limit the abundance of frogs in many coastal watersheds. Artificial (farm) ponds are potentially very valuable habitats, if fish and bullfrogs are absent.
Foothill Yellow-legged Frog Rana boylii (FSC, CSC, State Candidate for listing as Endangered)
This is a medium-sized frog of mid-gradient, rocky, relatively open, natural streams. Yellow-legged frogs breed in late spring in streams, rather than ponds, and complete metamorphosis in late summer. They are rare in the Santa Cruz Mountains bioregion and elsewhere in California compared to the federally threatened red-legged frogs, because they require relatively natural foothill streams; do not use ponds, including farm ponds, or cooler “trout streams” as do red-legged frogs. West of the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, they are presently reported from only Soquel Creek, where they are common. In Santa Clara County they are somewhat more widespread in foothill streams (ie., upper Uvas and Llagas creeks). On-channel or off-channel ponds with bullfrogs probably result in predation (reduction) of yellow-legged frogs. Their mid-elevation, more open habitats are subject to substantial impacts from sedimentation, water diversion and grazing. They were recently state listed as a “candidate”, and are protected until a final determination on their listing under the state Endangered Species Act.
Red-bellied Newt Taricha rivularis (CSC)
Red-bellied newts are a medium-sized salamander (5.5 to 7.5 inches from nose to tail) with a chocolate-brown back and tomato-red underside generally found in the redwood and similar forests and streams of northern California. Their eyes are completely dark brown with no bands of bright gold as with other similar-looking Taricha species. It breeds in fast-flowing streams from March to May and spends most of the year underground. Originally, its range was described as four counties of California: Humboldt, Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma, however, a small breeding population has recently been found in Santa Clara County in the Stevens Creek watershed, 80 miles south of its main population. Researchers have been unable to determine if this isolated population is natural or introduced.