Species Profile

Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population

Scientific Name: Desmognathus ochrophaeus
Taxonomy Group: Amphibians
Range: Quebec
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2007
Last COSEWIC Designation: Threatened
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander


The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander is one of the smallest species of lungless salamanders. This slender salamander averages 7 to 10 cm in length; males are slightly longer than females. Adults typically have a light stripe that extends down the back from the head to the tail. This stripe is straight-edged and varies in colour from grey to brown, tan, yellow, orange or red, depending on the age and the gender. The stripe also commonly contains a row of chevron-shaped dark spots down the middle. This stripe and its chevron pattern become less apparent with age. The sides are mottled and the belly varies from dark brown to black. Juveniles typically have a wide yellowish or reddish dorsal stripe. The larvae, which are aquatic, have well-developed gills and a well-developed fin on the tail.


Distribution and Population

The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander is commonly found throughout the Appalachian Mountain system of eastern North America, from the Canada-United States border in the north to northern Georgia in the south. The species was first discovered in Canada in 1988. It is found in only two isolated locations: one in southwestern Quebec, at Covey Hill, and the other in southern Ontario, in the Niagara River gorge near Queenston. Canada therefore has two known populations of the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander: the Carolinian population, in Ontario, and the Great Lakes/ St. Lawrence population, which occupies a very small area in Quebec. In the latter locality, the salamanders live in some six to eight streams, all with a single source. Available data are currently insufficient to provide sizes and trends of these populations.



The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander is found most commonly in or near forested brooks, rills, mountain cascades, springs or seeps. The species broods its eggs, forages, and overwinters in these heavily vegetated forest habitats. It nests near streams and in areas where water seeps from the ground. Shelter is provided in wet cavities along streams or seeps and in crevices between stones or under stones, leaf litter or logs.



This small, nocturnal salamander remains hidden beneath cover during the day and emerges at night to feed. During the coldest winter months, it hibernates in groups underground. In Quebec, hibernation typically begins in October. Females reach sexual maturity around three or four years of age, one year later than males. Females are thought to seek nest sites far in advance of egg laying, and they return to the same nest site year after year. Mating and egg laying occur in the fall and spring following an elaborate courtship ritual. The female lays a clutch of a dozen or more eggs in a moist depression and remains with the eggs until they hatch. On hatching, the young are in the form of larvae. The larval stage may last up to eight months and requires moist conditions, but not necessarily a body of water. The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander lacks lungs and therefore breathes through its skin and mouth. The skin must therefore be moist and permeable in order to allow gas exchange to occur, and this requirement for moisture restricts the species to moist habitats. This salamander eats a diverse array of invertebrates (primarily insects) and some vegetation. Its predators include snakes, small mammals and a few birds, as well as other salamanders. The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander escapes its predators by hiding or by losing its tail. In its natural environment, the species may live 15 years.



The main threats to this species are those that could affect groundwater reserves, either as a result of human activities or climatic variations. Fluctuations in water flow or contamination of water sources by runoff from industrial and urban areas are likely to have large impacts. In Quebec, physical barriers, such as roads and cultivated fields, could limit the species’ movements. By damaging or destroying the terrestrial habitat and altering the quality or abundance of surface water and groundwater, logging to clear land for farming or urban development could also pose threats to this species. Underground water reserves that feed seeps and springs inhabited by the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander are essential: they provide brooding, feeding and overwintering habitat. Due to its very restricted range, this species could easily become endangered in Canada within a very short time if major changes to its habitat were to take place. Finally, other potential threats include all-terrain vehicle use, collecting of specimens, and recreational activities in or near salamander habitat.



Federal Protection

The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander, Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population, 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.

In Quebec, the species is protected under An Act Respecting the Conservation and Development of Wildlife, which prohibits the purchase, sale or keeping of wildlife in captivity. In addition, the Quebec Environment Quality Act protects this species from unregulated changes in the quality of its environment.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

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


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Allegheny Mountain Dusty Salamander (Desmognathus ochrophaeus), Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Population in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

CWS-Quebec Species at Risk Recovery Unit

  • Unité du rétablissement des espèces en péril du SCF-QC - Chair/Contact -
    Phone: 1-855-253-6708  Send Email

Recovery team for stream salamanders in Quebec

  • Lyne Bouthillier - Chair/Contact - Government of Quebec
    Phone: 450-928-7608  Send Email



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.

4 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus ochrophaeus) in Canada (2007)

    The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander, Desmognathus ochrophaeus, is a small, slender salamander belonging to the family Plethodontidae (lungless salamanders). Mature salamanders average 70 to 100 mm in total length. Adults typically have a light stripe down their back that extends from the head to the tail. This stripe is straight-edged and varies in colour from grey, brown, tan, yellow, and orange, to red depending on age and sex. The stripe also commonly contains a row of chevron-shaped dark spots down the middle.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander, Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population (2007)

    This is a small and secretive salamander, with aquatic larvae, that inhabits forested brooks, cascades, springs, or seeps where there is abundant cover in the form of crevices between stones, leaf litter, or logs.  This species has a very small range of less than 100 km2 in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence faunal province in a single locality at the northernmost edge of the Adirondack Mountains. At this locality, the salamanders occupy some 8 to 10 streams and seeps with a total area of occupancy of under 10 km2. All of these streams emanate from a single water source. The locality is isolated from any other population of the same species, the nearest other locality is about 90 km away in New York State. Its minute range makes this salamander highly susceptible to stochastic events and the species would easily become endangered if major changes to its habitat were to take place. The major threats to this salamander in Great Lakes/St. Lawrence faunal province are any that could affect the water table and dry out seeps and springs in its habitat, degrade groundwater flow and quality or deplete groundwater reserves. Logging at the single water source could destroy terrestrial habitat by increasing siltation in streams and altering hydrological regimes.

Recovery Strategies

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act - Terrestrial Species (2008)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 25, 2008 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 27, 2009 for species undergoing extended consultations.