The state of Alabama is in the southeastern parts of the United States, and it is surrounded by the Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. Alabama is the thirtieth biggest American state by area and the twenty-fourth most populous. Alabama has numerous nicknames including the "Yellowhammer State", "Cotton State", and the "Heart of Dixie." Like the other American states, Alabama has designated various state symbols including the state flower, tree, flag, and even an amphibian. The Red Hills salamander is the official amphibian of the state of Alabama.
Red Hills Salamander
The Red Hills salamander is a 10 inches long terrestrial amphibian with relatively short limbs. The Red Hills salamander’s body color ranges from brown to grey with no markings. These lungless salamanders breathe through their skin. Red Hills salamanders lay their eggs on land. The Red Hills salamanders are considered to the biggest fully terrestrial salamanders in the United States. The Red Hills salamanders are longer than all the other lungless salamanders, but with shorter limbs.
Red Hills salamanders are believed to occupy an area of about 50,000 acres in the state. Its range includes parts of Wilcox, Monroe, Crenshaw, Covington, Conecuh, and Butler. The range of these salamanders in Alabama is between the Alabama River to the west and the Conecuh River to the east. Red Hills salamanders inhabit the burrows on the slopes of the cool, moist ravines.
The endangered Red Hills salamanders were unknown to humans until 1960 when Leslie Hubricht discovered one at the Red Hills in Butler County, Alabama. Leslie discovered these salamanders while he was conducting a survey on land snails. The Red Hills salamander is the first salamander species found in North America since 1939. It was named Phaeognathus hubrichti after the person who discovered them.
The Red Hills salamander has been under federal protection since 1976. Some of its main threats include a low reproductive rate, habitat loss, and restricted range among others. The National Conservancy acquired over 1,786 acres in Alabama to ensure the survival of this species by providing sufficient habitat. The National Conservancy transferred the land to the state for recreational use.
Various paper firms which use the clear-cut system of forest management have leased over 60% of the Red Hills salamander’s habitat. The management system and the mechanical site preparation for replanting have destroyed the Red Hills salamander’s habitats.
Designating the Alabama State Amphibian
The state recognized the endangered Red Hills salamander as their official amphibian in 2000, after a campaign by Fairhope Elementary School’s third graders and their teachers. The bill proposing the Phaeognathus hubrichti as Alabama’s official amphibian was introduced to the Senate on February 1, 2000. It was approved on February 15, 2000, when forty-eight senators voted in favor of the Phaeognathus hubrichti becoming the official Alabama state amphibian. The bill was forwarded to the House of Representative where it was approved on April 6, 2000. Governor Siegelman signed the bill on April 13, 2000.
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