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12-Year-Old’s Proposal To Designate Idaho Giant Salamander The State Amphibian To Get Full Hearing

Sixth grader Ilah Hickman has been working on proposal to list Dicamptodon aterrimus as state amphibian for the last two years.

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A 12-year-old girl who has been working on a proposal since the fourth grade to get the Idaho giant salamander (Dicamptodon aterrimus) designated as the state's official amphibian has cleared another hurdle as she was invited by state Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise to pitch her proposal to the Idaho House committee herself.

According to the Idaho Spokesman, sixth grader Ilah Hickman told the committee that Idaho is home to a variety of amphibians and one should be selected to represent the state. She proposed to the committee that the salamander be selected as the official state amphibian because "It bears the name of Idaho, and I think that the skin on it looks like the topographical map of our Bitterroot mountain range,” Ilah told the committee. “It lives almost exclusively in Idaho, “Hickman told the Spokesman.


When Hickman was in the fourth grade, one of her assignments was to create a mock letter to create a new state symbol. She decided to turn her efforts into a real letter and has been working on the letter and her proposal for the last two years. Last year she was able to work with then-Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise on her bill but was unsuccessful in getting it printed. Ward-Engelking, a former school teacher decided to bring Ilah to the committee and personally deliver her proposal. In her presentation to the committee, Hickman told the committee that she is taking suggestions from those who vote against her proposal what she can do to get more support for her bill. The committee then voted unanimously to introduce the bill, enabling her efforts to receive a full hearing. State Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa encouraged Hickman to get members of her class to come and testify in support of the bill.

The Idaho giant salamander is the smallest of the "giant salamanders." It grows to about 14 inches in length and weighs about 2.5 ounces. It is the largest terrestrial salamander and lives primarily in Idaho. They can be found in moist forests and streams within the forest as well as in rivers and lakes. An interesting aspect of this species is that they sometimes do not go through metamorphosis, a stage called paedomorphism, but still become sexually mature. The IUCN lists the species as Least Concern, but Idaho state wildlife managers have classified the salamander as vulnerable due to past use of DDT, logging and other human activity.