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Tiger Salamander

Tiger Salamander

Ambystoma tigrinum

Status: Not Listed

Classification: Amphibian

Description

Tiger salamanders are approximately six to eight inches (15 to 20 centimeters) long. These amphibians have dark gray, brown, or black bodies with brownish-yellow markings. In some subspecies, the yellow markings are large spots or stripes, while other subspecies have small yellow, irregularly shaped spots. For example, the barred tiger salamander of the lower Great Plains has large, elongated spots. The eastern tiger salamander has small spots. Some individuals might have no spots at all.

Range

In the United States, tiger salamanders can be found along the Atlantic coast south of New York and down to Florida. The majority of tiger salamanders live in the center of the country, from Arizona and Montana east to Ohio and Kentucky. They live near vernal pools (seasonal pools of freshwater), ponds, and slow-moving streams.

Tiger salamanders can be difficult to spot because of their secretive nature and ability to spend long periods of time burrowed underground—in fact, they spend most of the year below the surface, which allows them to escape high temperatures. But after heavy rains, tiger salamanders can be seen walking around on wet ground. Their predators include badgers, snakes, bobcats, and owls.

Diet

These salamanders are efficient predators in their habitat. Larvae feed on small crustaceans and insect larvae. Worms, snails, slugs, and insects make up most of the adult tiger salamander’s diet.

Life History

Tiger salamanders migrate to breeding ponds in late winter or early spring. One to two days after courtship, a female lays up to a hundred eggs, which hatch about four weeks later. Larvae stay in the pond until they become adults, usually within two and a half to five months. Tiger salamanders can live for 14 years or more.

Conservation

The tiger salamander population is stable. Wetland loss, specifically vernal pools, is the greatest threat facing tiger salamanders. Tiger salamanders lay eggs in vernal pools because they are free of fish that normally eat the eggs and larvae. As wetlands are filled in and destroyed, tiger salamanders must search longer and farther to find good breeding sites.

Fun Fact

Unlike other salamanders, tiger salamanders dig their own burrows. They have been found in burrows more than two feet deep.

Sources

Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoolog

National Geographic

Wildscreen Arkive

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