Description: These two species were formerly considered subspecies of the Jordan’s salamander (Plethodon jordani). Both of these species have dark grey bodies with lighter grey cheek patches and are easily identified by their red legs. Some individuals may have brassy flecking on the back. Some ocoee salamanders (Desmognathus ocoee) may have red legs but will also have a light line from the eye to the back of the jaw. Unlike red-legged salamanders, the back legs of the ocoee salamander are also much stockier than the front legs.
Habitat/Range: Both of these species have a fairly small range in the southwestern corner of North Carolina. The Cheoah Bald salamander only occurs at high elevations on a single mountain in North Carolina. Red-legged salamanders are also found primarily at high elevations and their range in North Carolina is limited to the Unicoi and Nantahala Mountains. Individuals of both species are often found under cover objects in high elevation forests.
Diet: Both species probably consume a wide variety of small forest floor invertebrates.
Reproduction: Nests of Jordan’s salamanders have never been found. It is likely that they lay their eggs in underground cavities. Females of most closely-related species will guard their eggs until hatching and it is thought that females of both of these species probably do the same. Hatchlings do not go through an aquatic larval stage. Instead, when young salamanders emerge from their eggs they look like miniature adults.
Miscellaneous: When threatened, both Cheoah Bald salamanders and Red-legged salamanders release noxious, sticky skin secretions which are used to deter predators.