Tehachapi slender salamander denied endangered species protection
Jeremy Nichols had never seen a living Tehachapi slender salamander when, acting as a private citizen, he filed a petition in 2006 asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the stealthy, brick-red amphibian as endangered.
Nichols became infatuated with the salamander after reading an article about it in a book about North American reptiles and amphibians. His petition cited Tejon Ranch Co.’s development plans as threats to its existence.
The agency agreed to study the matter, declaring in the Federal Register in 2009 that Nichols' petition presented "substantial scientific or commercial information" to warrant a comprehensive review.
On Friday, the service rendered its final conclusion: Batrachoseps stebbinsi does not warrant a spot on the endangered species list. An analysis determined that cattle grazing, road construction, flood control projects, disease, severe wildfires, prolonged drought and construction of Tejon Ranch’s proposed 7,860-acre residential and commercial development, the Tejon Mountain Village project, would not impact the species in the foreseeable future.
The salamander resides in two canyons about 13 miles apart and separated by a freeway 60 miles north of Los Angeles.
It lives mostly underground and, without lungs, absorbs oxygen through its skin. When threatened, it can coil its body like a snake.
The salamanders live most of their lives underground, emerging only when it rains. They occur on north-facing slopes within canyons or ravines, beneath rocks, fallen logs, talus, or leaf litter. They feed on small arthropods and other invertebrates.
It is unknown how long it lives, and no juveniles have been seen in the wild or reported.
Nichols, a climate program director with Wild Earth Guardians, an environmental group based in Santa Fe, N.M., was not immediately available for comment.
-- Louis Sahagun
Photo: An adult Tehachapi slender salamander from Caliente Creek, Kern County. Credit: Gary Nafis.