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Tiger Salamander
Ambysoma tigrinum

Adult Salamander
Adult Salamander

    Land Tenure - Barred Tiger Salamander
  • Length: 14 to 22 cm, with a tail up to half the body length.
  • Rounded, blunt-nosed head with small, protruding eyes.
  • Highly variable in pattern: bold mottling of greenish, yellowish, cream or olive tan patches on a brown or black background; patches are large, regular and often interconnected.
  • Short, unwebbed toes which taper to points.
  • Larvae have large heads and huge gills that are swept back along the body.

Tiger Salamander Land Tenure Map - PDF version


British Columbia Red List

Special Significance

The Tiger Salamander is one of the few salamanders that is adapted to desert climates. Tiger Salamanders are at risk in British Columbia because of their small population, limited distribution and the rapid development of their habitat for human use. Many remaining ponds and lakes that provide suitable breeding habitat for these threatened salamanders are on privately owned land. Landowners can help to ensure the continued survival of these salamanders by conserving wetlands, excluding livestock and game fish stocking from breeding ponds, and retaining adjacent natural areas of shrub-grasslands.


  • In British Columbia, Tiger Salamanders have been found at low to mid elevations from Grand Forks west to Keremeos and as far north as Peachland.
  • Most of the British Columbia population is in the Okanagan Valley south of Okanagan Falls; ponds in the White Lake areas are especially productive.


  • Breed in warm ponds, shallow lake edges and temporary pools (often salty or alkaline) and slow moving creeks; breeding sites are adjacent to grassland foraging habitat.
  • Hatchlings and larvae live in aquatic weeds, under logs or in organic sediment in shallow water.
  • Adults forage in semi-arid grasslands, open forests and riparian areas.
  • Adults hibernate in deep, fine-soiled grasslands, meadows, coniferous forests, riparian areas and permanent waterbodies.
  • Mammal burrows and rotting logs provide hibernating sites.


  • After the first spring rains, salamanders migrate from their winter burrows to nearby bodies of water.
  • Breeding occurs from March through August.
  • Courtship includes nudging and tail lashing which prompts the male to deposit a sperm packet that the female retrieves with her vent.
  • Females lay up to 120 eggs in water less than 1 meter deep; eggs are usually attached to stones, plants or debris underwater.
  • Gilled aquatic larvae hatch in two to three weeks; most metamorphose into adults in two to three months, developing lungs and losing their gills and tail fins.
  • Terrestrial adults migrate from breeding areas to hibernating sites in August and September.
  • Maximum lifespan is 20 years.

Food Habits

  • Larvae eat small aquatic mites, worms, insects, tadpoles and smaller salamander larvae.
  • Adults eat earthworms, insects, baby mice, frogs, snails and slugs.

Interesting Facts

  • Ambystoma means 'blunt mouth'; tigrinum means 'like a tiger', it reflects the bright yellow-and-back striping of some adults.
  • Tiger Salamanders can withstand alkaline water that would pickle most animals.
  • Some larvae do not metamorphose into terrestrial adults; they retain their gills and mate in the aquatic environment; these forms are known as paedogens, neotenes, waterdogs or mudpuppies, growing up to 32 cm in length and living for 25 years.
  • If ponds dry up or contain little food, some salamander larvae will become cannibal morphs, developing greatly enlarged mouths and large teeth and preying on members of their own species.


  • Livestock can trample banks of ponds and lakes, destroying salamander burrows and the surrounding protective vegetation. Hoof imprints along the pond edges create small puddles which dry up and kill eggs and larvae within them
  • Breeding habitat is lost through filling and draining ponds and wetlands
  • Introduced game fish can compete with salamanders for food as well as eat salamander eggs and larvae
  • Poisoning lakes to kill coarse fish also kills aquatic salamanders
  • Extensive land development has degraded or eliminated riparian areas and grasslands adjacent to water bodies
  • Vehicle road kills during migration to and from breeding areas
  • Unscreened irrigation intake lines can kill salamanders

Management Considerations

  • Fence ponds and lakes to exclude livestock
  • Maintain water levels of ponds and irrigation reservoirs whenever possible
  • Create ponds to compensate for loss of natural breeding habitat
  • Protect riparian areas and shrub-grasslands to provide migration corridors and feeding areas
  • Do not stock salamander breeding ponds or lakes with game fish
  • Ensure irrigation intake lines are screened
  • Contact your local British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection if a Tiger Salamander is sighted


1. Sarell, M., A. Bryan, N. Work and L. Dyer. 1996. Living in Nature Series: Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum). South Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Program.
2. Orchard, S.A. 1984. Amphibians and reptiles of British Columbia; an ecological review. Ministry of Forests. Victoria, British Columbia.
3. Corkran, C.C. and C. R. Thoms. 1996. Amphibians of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia: a field identification guide. Lone Pine Publishing. Vancouver, British Columbia 175pp.


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