Photo credit: Chris Newsom
Jemez Mountains salamander (Plethodon neomexicanus) | ESA status: endangered
Jemez Mountains salamander
The small and secretive Jemez Mountains salamander lives in a limited area in and around the Valles Caldera of New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains. It has no lungs and must stay moist in order to absorb oxygen through its skin, forcing it to spend most of its time hidden underground in damp soils. Yet although it needs moisture to live, this species is strictly terrestrial, and does not require standing water at any stage of its life. Unlike many other salamanders, it hatches fully formed from its egg instead of going through a tadpole phase.
The Jemez Mountains salamander ventures out at night to hunt for ants, mites, and beetles inside rotted logs. When the temperature drops below 42.8°F/6°C in the winter, it retreats underground to hibernate.
Jemez Mountains salamander habitat
Ninety percent of the Jemez Mountains salamander population lives within the boundaries of the Santa Fe National Forest. To protect the Jemez Mountains salamander, one must safeguard the Jemez Mountains—a striking landscape characterized by large tracts of undisturbed wilderness, rocky peaks, and mountain streams. Because volcanic activity formed the mountains, they also contain unique features such as hot springs, fumaroles, and the Valles Caldera itself, a ring of hills born from the remnants of several extinct volcanoes.
What are the threats to the Jemez Mountains salamander?
The Jemez Mountains salamander is the most imperiled of the three salamanders that live in New Mexico and is very vulnerable to losing more of its already limited habitat. It is now found in only 38 percent of the sites it historically occupied. Logging, wildfires, and fire suppression activities—such as trench-digging and application of fire-suppressant chemicals—threaten the remaining salamanders. So does road-building: sometimes these tiny amphibians don’t make it across roads alive during their nightly travels.
What WildEarth Guardians is doing to preserve the Jemez Mountains salamander
We petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Jemez Mountains salamander and its habitat under the Endangered Species Act, and it was listed as endangered in 2013. We continue to urge federal agencies including the Forest Service to protect the salamander and the Jemez Mountains environment where it resides. The beauty of the Valles Caldera would be incomplete without the subtle presence and irreplaceable contributions of this creature.
Historical Significant Actions
WildEarth Guardians files lawsuit against the Santa Fe Forest Service for failing to protect the Jemez Mountains salamander from off-roaders and other motorized activities September 2014
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designates critical habitat for the Jemez Mountains salamander November 2013
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the Jemez Mountains salamander as “endangered” September 2013
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to list the Jemez Mountains salamander as “endangered” September 2012
Jemez Mountains salamander included in landmark settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service May 2011
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds the Jemez Mountains salamander “warranted but precluded” for listing, placing it on the Endangered Species Act candidate list September 2010
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues positive preliminary finding on petition to list the Jemez Mountains salamander August 2009
WildEarth Guardians files petition to list the Jemez Mountains salamander under the Endangered Species Act October 2008
Wildlife Press: Jemez Mountains salamander
Conservation groups initiate legal action over trespass livestock grazing in Valles Caldera
For years, cattle have illegally entered the Valles Caldera National Preserve from neighboring U.S. Forest Service grazing allotments, damaging riparian areas and important wildlife habitatRead more >
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