Friends of the Cawthra Bush
Greater Mississauga Area
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October 22, 1997
Re: Jefferson Salamanders in Cawthra Bush
Recently you asked me to comment on the importance of the presence of Jefferson Salamander in Cawthra Bush. We discussed importance in terms of the number of locations that Jefferson Salamanders are known from in Mississauga, in the Regional Municipality of Peel, in Ontario, and in Canada. We also discussed the ecological needs of this species of salamander, and how changing the nature of Cawthra Bush might affect this population. Let me summarize our discussions, and elaborate upon these issues, separately.
1. Status in Canada
You showed me a letter received from Glen Hooper (Ministry of Natural Resources) indicating that the Jefferson Salamander is not considered a rare/vulnerable, threatened, or endangered species in Ontario or Canada. He did, however, indicate that this species is on a "watchlist" and is being "tracked" by the Natural Heritage Information Centre (part of Ministry of Natural Resources head office in Peterborough, Ontario). While both statements are absolutely true, Mr. Hooper may not be aware of the fact that a status report on Jefferson Salamanders in Canada was prepared by myself, and submitted to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (C.O.S.E.W.I.C.). The report, titled "The Status of Ambystoma Jeffersonianum (Green), Jefferson Salamander in Canada. 39 pp", was submitted in March 1985 with a recommendation that Jefferson Salamander be assigned the status of THREATENED SPECIES in Canada. Over the last 12 years, more information has accumulated (as an example the presence of the species in Cawthra Bush), but I would not recommend, at this point in time, a downgrading of the status without careful and detailed review of all new information. In Canada, Jefferson Salamanders are known only from Ontario. At the present time, we know of only approximately 50 confirmed locations, all being around the western end of Lake Ontario. There are less than 10 locations known in all of Regional Municipality of Peel, and only two in Mississauga (Cawthra Bush and U of T campus at Erindale).
2. Ecological Needs and Environmental Significance
I provide the following information based on my considerable field experience with Jefferson Salamanders, and on my review of habitat information which has been submitted to the Ontario Herpetofaunal Summary program of the Ontario Field Herpetologists. The Ontario Herpetofaunal Summary program involves collating records of amphibians and reptiles in Ontario for the preparation of a publication, and I am a Co-Compiler of this initiative.
Jefferson Salamanders live in deciduous woodlands or woodlots in Ontario. They seem to be prevalent in cool, poorly-drained to well-drained upland woodlands rather than low swampy forests. In Mississauga, the, only two localities are in beech-maple woodlots. It is absolutely essential that semi-permanent or permanent ponds be present to ensure their persistence. It seems that the presence or absence of these ponds is more important that the vegetation and tree composition of the woodlots.
To help ensure the continued survival of Jefferson Salamanders in Cawthra Bush, it is my learned and scientific opinion that three issues be addressed:
* not to disturb the groundwater table too severely so as to drastically alter the moisture level of Cawthra Bush soils;
* not to open up the woodlot by removing trees or creating trails that would allow moisture and humidity trapped by leafy trees to escape at a accelerated rate;
* not to physically or chemically alter pools and ponds so as to affect breeding site availability and larval food source.
If you have comments or concerns, or wish further information, please feel free to contact me.
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