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Range Map

Black Mountain Salamander

Black Mountain Salamander
Desmognathus welteri

Also known as Black Mountain Dusky Salamander. This strongly aquatic species occurs on the Cumberland Plateau and in the Cumberland Mountains of east Tennessee.

Description: This medium-sized, chubby salamander (3.0 to 5.0 inches in length) has a light brown dorsum patterned with small dark brown spots or streaks. Tips of toes are usually very dark. A light line usually extends from just behind the eye to angle of jaw. A line of weak, whitish dots occurs between legs on side of body. The tail is flattened at base and is strongly keeled.

Similar Species:

  • Seal Salamander has a lighter colored belly causing a distinct color contrast between dorsal and ventral view.

Habitat: Usually found in small to medium-sized mountain streams. Occasionally found in springs and roadside puddles.

Diet: Aerial and ground insects: Flies, fly larvae, beetles, ants, butterfly & moth larvae.

Breeding information: Breeding occurs in spring and nests are placed in permanent streams. Females lay 18-33 eggs and then guard the clutch. Eggs hatch in September beginning the 20-24 month larval period.

Status in Tennessee: Local population declines have been observed due to impacts to stream habitat from strip mining and mountaintop removal mining for coal. The widespread use of this species for bait in the past has also impacted the population. In 1994, TWRA listed the Black Mountain Salamander as "In Need of Management."

Fun Facts:

  • Named for Big Black Mountain in Harlan County, KY.
  • Individuals can live at least 20 years.

Best places to see in Tennessee: Cumberland Plateau and Cumberland Mountains.

For more information:
The Salamanders of Tennessee web site


Conant, R. and Collins, J. 1998. Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern/Central North America). Houghton Mifflin Company, New York. 616pp.