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Long-Toed Salamander

(Ambystoma macrodactylm)

The long-toed salamander is one representative of Waterton Lakes National Park's biological diversity. The drama of the long-toed salamander began in Waterton Lakes National Park when modifications were made to the road running by the information centre. Due to their small size (10 to 17 cm./ 4 to 7 in.) and nocturnal, burrowing behaviour, salamander populations often go undetected. Indeed, a large population of salamanders was only discovered in Waterton Park when their migration to and from Linnet Lake was interrupted by the construction of new curbs and sidewalks along the road. In the fall of 1991 a park's employee discovered several salamanders having difficulty climbing the steep curbs, backing large numbers up on the road. In 1992 many community volunteers turned up for about a week in April, on cool rainy nights, to manually lift over 2,000 salamanders over the curb.

This discovery led to testing and monitoring of several alternatives by the warden service. In the end, the curbs were replaced with rough, sloping, "salamander-friendly" curbs and modifications to water drainage. Salamanders now cross the road with a minimal amount of difficulty. The incident emphasised the need for a study of park salamander populations. Julie M. Fukumoto of the University of Calgary agreed to conducted a two-year study as part of her Master's Degree.

Julie found scattered isolated populations of long-toed salamanders within Waterton Lakes National Park, similar to study findings elsewhere in the province where the species were listed as threatened. Some reasons identified for the scattered, cut off populations of salamanders were -

  • roadway mortality (long-toed salamanders require both water and land habitats many of which are intersected by roads);
  • loss or alteration of habitat;
  • past fish stocking practices (in lakes were fish historically never existed, stocked fish eat many salamanders and their eggs); and,
  • global effects (amphibians are declining worldwide perhaps due to the thinning of the ozone and acidic precipitation).
In Waterton Lakes National Park, key issues identified for future impacts on salamanders were -
  • winter salting of park roads upsetting water chemistry, which in turn effects aquatic life;
  • occasional chlorine release from the Prince of Wales hotel water tower affecting water quality in Linnet lake; and,
  • an increase in traffic during shoulder seasons which may increase salamander mortality.


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