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Coeur d’Alene salamander abundance, distribution, and habitat use in Mount Revelstoke National Park of Canada Larson, Lisa Irene

Abstract

The Coeur d’Alene salamander (Plethodon idahoensis) is a species of special concern throughout its global range, which includes southeastern BC (COSEWIC, Nov 2007), Idaho, and Montana, due to disjunct populations and sensitivity to human disturbance. Within the Interior Cedar-Hemlock forest on Mount Revelstoke, BC, Coeur d’Alene salamanders occur at their highest abundance between 600 m and 800 m. Beyond the Mount Revelstoke National Park boundaries, the low-order stream habitat of this species is subject to disturbance from forestry, mining, road building, road maintenance, and watercourse diversions such as run-of-the-river hydro projects. We conducted nocturnal salamander surveys and assessed habitat characteristics on 12 Sites (750 m² – 1000 m² stream transects) along three streams from June through September 2006. Coeur d’Alene salamanders were detected from 600 m - 1000 m on seven of the 12 study sites. Relative abundance of Coeur d’Alene salamanders ranged from 0.005 ± 0.001 per m² to 0.025 ± 0.005 per m² on six sites below 950 m. Coeur d’Alene salamanders occurred at an average of 0.001 ± 0.001 per m² at 972 m, the only site above 950 m where we detected salamanders. Our capture-mark-recapture efforts of three surveys per month in June and August yielded a very low recapture rate (3.95 %). Coeur d’Alene salamanders are challenging to enumerate due to their vertical distribution within the soil and underlying geological material. Neonate, juvenile, and adult Coeur d’Alene salamanders were observed from June to September and the highest proportion of neonates occurred in June, soon after the salamanders emerged from winter hibernation. Results of a logistic regression analysis of 1-m² plots reflected the importance of fine scale habitat characteristics (quadrat gradient, boulder, cobble, moss, grass, and shrub) in addition to site-level habitat features (water volume and elevation) that in combination describe the association of Coeur d’Alene salamanders with cool and moist conditions. Coeur d’Alene salamanders appear to select streambed habitat during warm, dry periods, which may be a behavioural response to minimize dehydration during periods of activity at the surface of the forest floor.

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