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New Plan Released To Try To Save Endangered Salamanders Only Found In Santa Barbara County

(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Photo-John Clecker/USFWS)
The California Tiger Salamander found in Northern Santa Barbara County is on th federal endnager species list. A new recovery plan to try to save the unique creatures has just been released

Santa Barbara County is home to a unique, squat looking amphibian which looks like what artist Andy Warhol might have made if he was asked to create a psychedelic, half-foot long lizard like creature. But, California Tiger Salamanders are real life creatures only found in a small part of our region, and they’re endangered.

Cat Darst, who's the Assistant Field Supervisor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ventura, says a new recovery plan to try to save the salamanders has just been released.

Darst says California Tiger Salamanders are only found in Northern Santa Barbara County, largely on privately owned agricultural land. The salamanders spend most of their time in abandoned squirrel or gopher burrows, surfacing to go to small seasonal ponds to breed.

Meanwhile, the pond is where the next generation of salamanders is getting its start, as tadpoles which eventually develop legs, and leave the ponds to start the whole life cycle over again.

Darst says because of their unique lives, we don’t have a good handle on how many of the salamanders exist, whether it’s hundreds or a few thousand, but she says the numbers have dropped far enough to lead to them being listed on the federal endangered species list in 2000.

The biggest issue they face is the loss of their unique habitat. Other risks for the amphibians include chemical exposure, disease, vehicle strikes, and for the tadpoles, predation by non-native bullfrogs in the vernal ponds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its recovery plan, intended to help protect, and enhance the remaining salamander population.

Darst says most of the salamander’s habitat is privately owned agricultural land. The plan calls for working with Santa Barbara County, and ag groups to encourage efforts to protect the amphibians. There are incentive programs for landowners to create easements, and in some case get grants for projects to help protect the salamanders.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is hoping to set up a working group of biologists, county officials, property owners, and other involved parties to try to get the ball rolling to save these unique little creatures.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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