Coeur d'Alene Salamander

Coeur d'Alene Salamander
Coeur d'Alene Salamander
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Caudata
Family: Plethodontidae
Genus: 'Plethodon'
Binomial name
Plethodon idahoensis
Slater & Slipp, 1940

Plethodon vandykei idahoensis

The Coeur d'Alene Salamander is a species of woodland salamander (Plethodon) in the family of lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae). This species was once known as Plethodon vandykei idahoensis, a subspecies of Van Dyke's salamander localized in northern Idaho.



P. idahoensis specimens are slender salamanders from 2-4 inches in length. Adults have a nasolabial groove, parotoid glands and parasphenoid teeth. Coloration and markings that are key in characterizing this species include a dark ground color with a yellow-gold dorsal stripe that extends the length of the organism as well as ventral yellow patches on the throat. The toes of the Coeur d'Alene salamander are shorter than those of the Long-toed salamander, which aids in distinguishing the two species.

The eggs of the Coeur d'Alene salamander have a unique physiology as well. They are unpigmented and occur in grape-like clusters, attached via a single thread.

Similar Species

Common Name Binomial Name
Central Long-toed Salamander Ambystoma macrodactylum columbianum
Dunn's Salamander Plethodon dunni
Larch Mountain Salamander Plethodon larselli
Van Dyke's Salamander Plethodon vandykei idahoensis
Western Red-backed Salamander Plethodon vehiculum


While the majority of this species is localized in northern Idaho, there are some instances of capture/sighting in western Montana and southeastern British Columbia. Approximately 95% of observed populations in Idaho and Montana have been verified extant since 1987; the remainder may have [extirpated], however there is a general lack of knowledge on the population trends of the Coeur d'Alene salamander.

The majority of known data has been observed in the St. Joe and North Fork Clearwater River basins, but occurrences are also seen in the Selway, Kootenai, and Moyie drainages.


The preferred territory of P. idahoensis is in the corridors of stream riparian zones, in the splash zone of waterfalls, near seeps and springs, or in streamside scree. Specimens are usually associated with fractured rock formations in moist environments, often localized around fresh, moving water.


Generally, these salamanders only come above ground during the night when the temperature is above 45 degrees F. Coeur d'Alene salamanders are known to eat aquatic insects and other invertebrate, which are also active during the night.

In northern Idaho, P. idahoensis emerges from winter hibernation in late March and is active near the surface through April and May; this surface activity is negatively correlated with both high daytime temperatures and the number of days since last rain. From June until mid-September, Coeur d'Alene salamanders retreat underground to aestivate. A second period of activity continues with September through early November rains, followed by a period of hibernation that lasts until spring.


Mating suitable and opportune time. Clutch size varies from a small cluster (~4) to 13.

Management Issues

Due to lack of research and rarity of sightings/capture, population trend data for the Coeur d'Alene salamander is spotty at best. There are thought to be small sites where the species is abundant and capable of observation, but without an implemented monitoring program few data is available with which to evaluate population trends. It is precisely this lack of information that puts the Coeur d'Alene salamander on both Idaho and Montana's Species of Special Concern lists.

This listing could initiate efforts to evaluate population trend could be part of a regional amphibian monitoring program and minimally should involve monitoring site occupancy rates. It could also initiate habitat protection efforts, which are needed to maintain water quality and protect riparian habitats of occupied and observed sites.

Conservation Classifications

System Status
Rangewide G4 Apparently Secure
Statewide S2 Imperiled
ESA No status
US Forest Service Region 1: Sensitive
Bureau of Land Management Type 3 Regional/State Imperiled
Idaho Department of Fish and Game Protected Nongame


  • Cassirer EF, Groves CR, Genter DL. August 1994. "Coeur d'Alene Salamander Conservation Assessment". USDA Forest Service, Region 1.
  • Wilson AG, Larsen JH Jr. 1988. "Activity and Diet in Seepage-dwelling Coeur d'Alene Salamanders (Plethodon vandykei idahoensis)". Northwest Science, volume 62:5. pp 211-217.
  • Wilson AG, Larsen JH Jr. 1998. "Biogeographic Analysis of the Coeur d'Alene Salamander (Plethodon idahoensis)". Northwest Science, volume 72:2. pp 111-115.
  • Wilson AG, Wilson EM, Groves CR, Wallace RL. 1997. "US Distribution of the Coeur d'Alene Salamander (Plethodon idahoensis, Slater and Slipp)". Great Basin Naturalist, volume 57:4. pp 359-392.

Web Sources

Additional Reading

  • Ohanjanian IA. 2000. "The Coeur d'Alene Salamander (Plethodon idahoensis) in the operating area of Wynndell Box and Lumber Company". Ltd. Ministry of Environment/FRBC report, BC, Canada.

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