Press Release: Endangered Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander larvae discovered in Elkhorn Slough

In Press, Santa Cruz long-toed salamander by Administrator


Elkhorn Slough Foundation
Contact: (updated contact Kerstin Wasson)

For immediate release
June 3, 2010
Endangered Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander larvae discovered in Elkhorn Slough

The first finding of larvae at the Reserve since 2006 bodes well for salamander’s future

, CA- Researchers made an exciting discovery of several Santa Cruz long-toed salamander larvae in a pond at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Santa Cruz long-toed salamander has been federally listed as endangered since 1967. It lives only in Monterey and southern Santa Cruz counties. Larvae had not been seen on the Reserve, one of its few remaining breeding locales in Monterey County, since 2006.

Nina D’Amore, Amphibian and Freshwater Ecologist for the Elkhorn Slough Reserve, exclaims, “This is an exciting find – if they hadn’t bred in the pond this year, it might have meant that the population here on the Reserve would blink out.” As these animals live less than ten years, a population could probably only go a maximum of 5 years without breeding successfully.

Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders lay eggs singly or in small clusters. The eggs hatch into larvae, which is essentially the stage equivalent of a frog’s tadpoles. Sampling of Lower Cattail Swale, a pond located on the Reserve, quickly found 6 salamander larvae, making it likely that there are many more larvae in the 2 acre pond.

Aside from the recent discovery at Cattail Swale, D’Amore is aware of small long-toed salamander populations only at Oxbow Pond in Las Lomas, protected by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and ALBA (Agricultural & Land Based Training Association), as well as McClusky and Zmudowski Sloughs and parts of Moro Cojo Slough. Small populations also likely exist in pockets elsewhere in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

Recent restoration projects by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and the Elkhorn Slough Reserve have likely contributed to the salamander’s reemergence this spring. In recent years, the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, a nonprofit land trust working in partnership with the Reserve, purchased a land parcel upland from Cattail Swale and removed it from agricultural production, reducing erosion and sediment flow into Cattail Swale and improving water quality. Additional restoration efforts allowed Cattail Swale to hold water for longer lengths of time, allowing for animals like the salamander and California red-legged frogs to complete metamorphosis into adults. Another project, led by the Reserve’s Stewardship Specialist, Bree Candiloro, is removing eucalyptus around the pond in order to allow the groundwater to recharge.

D’Amore is hopeful about the future of the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander. “We’re thrilled that restoration projects have improved water quality at the Reserve to provide healthy habitat for Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders. I’ll continue to conduct amphibian monitoring on the Reserve and Foundation lands to eagerly track the species progress.”

The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is one of 27 National Estuarine Research Reserves established nationwide as field laboratories for scientific research and estuarine education. The Reserve is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and managed by the California Department of Fish and Game. The Elkhorn Slough Foundation, the nonprofit partner to the Reserve, established in 1982, is the only community-supported organization wholly dedicated to conserving and restoring Elkhorn Slough and its watershed. ESF owns or manages nearly 4,000 acres, or nearly nine percent of the watershed.

The Elkhorn Slough and its surrounding hills and valleys is an incredibly diverse ecosystem featuring the expansive tracts of saltwater marshes, oak woodlands, working farms, and the plant and wildlife that inhabit these regions. The Slough has been the focal point for innovative and cutting-edge research, conservation and education programs.

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