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Manteca effort to retrieve California tiger salamander & western spadefoot toad will save taxpayers $1M plus
The threatened California tiger salamander that was found where the McKinley Avenue and 120 Bypass interchange is being built.

Adult California tiger salamanders spend about a quarter of their lives underground.

It’s an important tidbit of information that allowed Manteca’s public works staff to devise a plan that will save the city in excess of $1 million to capture and relocate the amphibian that has been listed as federally threatened 

California tiger salamanders as well as the near threatened western spadefoot toad were found on land Manteca obtained to build the $30.7 million McKinley Avenue interchange on the 120 Bypass that is scheduled to go out to bid in 2020.

Because of the protected status of the salamander, Manteca was facing a fee of at least $400,000 to be able to develop the interchange and an additional charge of $1 million for obtaining suitable relocation grounds.

Deputy Public Works Director Koosun Kim  in working with state and San Joaquin Council of Government officials to devise a strategy to relocate the two species found in the area of the interchange and relocate them to the Clements/Ramirez Preserve north of Stockton at a fraction of the cost.

The  cost of the relocation of the two species plus additional right-of-way issues that need to be address will now add $278,582 to the cost of the project instead of close to $1.5 million.

Some 250 California Tiger salamanders have already been captured from the location and relocated.

The salvage and relocation plan that biologists will carry out includes placing specialized “exclusion” fencing along with a  climbing barrier around the habitat before the next rainy season.  Untreated hardwood cover boards that attract salamanders as well as specialized netting will be used.

Biologists will survey all of the cover boards after a rain event or period of high humility during the wet season.

All live California tiger salamanders and western spadefoot toads will be collected. The process of checking the cover boards and netting will require two people to invest 10-hour days twice a week to retrieve the amphibians.

The salamanders and toads along with all larvae and metamorphs will be taken to a temporary holding facility for 48 hours for observation. Biologists will look for signs of an infectious disease. Those that are not infected will be transported to the reserve.

The California tiger salamander is relatively stocky looking with a broad, rounded snout sporting small eyes with black irises. It is known as a mole salamander making it fairly secretive. Adults can grow to be up to 8 inches.

Their biggest habitat includes most of San Joaquin County as well as the eastern edge of the San Joaquin Valley stretching down toward Fresno. There is also habitat in the Altamont Hills, San Jose and on the eastern side of the Coastal Ranges in addition to the Santa Rosa area.

The western spadefoot road is a relatively smooth-skinned. Its eyes are pale gold with vertical pupils. It has a green or grey dorsum often with skin tubercles tipped in orange, and it is a whitish color on the ventrum. It has a wedge-shaped black spade on each hind foot. Adult toads are between 1.5 and 3 inches long.

The toad is primarily found in the Central Valley although they have habitat in the San Jose area as well as the desert.

To contact Denis Wyatt, email