Species Profile

Spring Salamander

Scientific Name: Gyrinophilus porphyriticus
Taxonomy Group: Amphibians
Range: Ontario, Quebec
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2011
Last COSEWIC Designation: Non-active
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern

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Related Species

Spring Salamander ( Adirondack / Appalachian population ) Threatened No Status
Spring Salamander ( Carolinian population ) Extirpated No Status

Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Spring Salamander

Spring Salamander Photo 1



In Canada, the Spring Salamander is represented by the subspecies known as the Northern Spring Salamander, which is distinct from four other subspecies found only in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States.



The Spring Salamander is one of the largest members of the family of lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae). Up to 20 cm long, the adult males are slightly larger than the females. The salamander has a stout body and a broad, blunt nose, with a reddish back and tail, and a whitish belly. Coloration varies geographically, but older individuals are generally darker, and all salamanders have a pinkish colour between the dark markings on the back. A distinctive light line, edged in black, begins at the eye and extends to the nostril. The immature form (larva) is white, and has external gills that are characteristic of all aquatic salamanders.


Distribution and Population

The Spring Salamander is restricted to eastern North America. Two Canadian populations in the St. Lawrence Lowlands of southern Quebec represent the northwestern limit of the species' range: one in the Adirondack Mountains and the other in the Appalachian Mountains. These two populations are separated by the Richelieu River/Lake Champlain/Hudson River system, and their combined distributions represent about 5% of the total range of the species in North America. Two early records of the Spring Salamander in larval form in Ontario (near Ottawa, and in the Niagara region) have not been confirmed by any subsequent surveys. The size of the Canadian population of the Spring Salamander is unknown. The species is considered rare, and usually only a few individuals are located when suitable habitat is searched. In areas of local abundance, from 5 to 20 individuals may be found per 25 m of stream. It has been estimated that about 850 adults may occur in the Quebec portion of the Adirondacks.



The Spring Salamander is mainly associated with cool, clear streams in forested mountain regions. Nevertheless, individuals have been found in streams in open areas, ponds, lake edges, peat habitats, and caves. Permanent, well-oxygenated water is required for the aquatic respiration of the larvae. The lungless adults are restricted by skin respiration to moist, cool environments. During the summer, adults are usually found under large flat rocks at the edges of streams or in the vicinity of water. Small headwater streams free of predatory fish support larger populations of Spring Salamanders. The salamanders probably spend the winter in wet underground cavities or unfrozen springs.



The Spring Salamander is generally unknown to the public because it is active at night, has secretive behaviour, and is relatively rare. In North Carolina, the species reproduces annually, and mating occurs in the fall. Eggs are laid the following spring or summer, and are attached beneath large rocks or logs in flowing water. Clutch sizes tend to be larger in northern regions, ranging from 9 to 87 eggs in North and South Carolina to about 44 to 132 eggs per clutch in New York. The larvae hatch in late summer or early fall, and remain in the larval stage from three to six years. Adults emerge from the water in spring or summer and attain sexual maturity a year later. The Spring Salamander preys on other salamanders, including those of its own species, and on terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates. Trout are the major predator of larval Spring Salamander and can have a large influence on salamander populations. Adult salamanders avoid being eaten by trout by going onto land. Toxic skin secretions, and red colouration that mimics more poisonous species, are believed to give them protection from terrestrial predators.


Habitat modification is the major threat to the Spring Salamander. Sedimentation, resulting from road construction and canal work, affects the survival of larvae. Pumping of aquifers near springs and changes in stream conditions following the cutting of forests at stream edges, are also detrimental. The Spring Salamander may be vulnerable to contamination from atmospheric pollutants or pesticides used in forestry and agriculture as well, although this has not been documented.



Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Plan for Stream Salamanders in Quebec
Status Published by Jurisdiction


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.

7 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment - Spring Salamander (2002)

    Designated Special Concern in April 1999. Status re-examined and confirmed Special Concern in May 2002. Last assessment based on an existing status report.

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Spring Salamander (2004)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) in Canada (2014)

    The Spring Salamander is a large stream salamander that occurs in the Appalachian Mountains in eastern North America. It is present in southeastern Quebec and is also known to have occurred in the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, but has not been observed there since 1877. The Spring Salamander was listed as Special Concern on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in January 2010. The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister for the management of the Spring Salamander and has prepared management plan as per section 65 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the Government of Quebec.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (2005)

    Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.