E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Ambystoma mavortium Baird, 1850
Tiger Salamander
Family: Ambystomatidae

Species account author: Prepared with contributions by Hugh Griffith and Brent Matsuda.

Photo of species

© Lisa Powers  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #5252)

E-Fauna BC Static Map
Distribution of Ambystoma mavortium in British Columbia
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Species Information

The Tiger Salamander is a distinctive species of salamander that is found in North American from southwestern Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) south through the western United States to Texas and northern Mexico (Wikipedia 2012). In BC we have one subspecies present, the Blotched Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma mavortium melanostictum). This is a nocturnal, terrestrial species of salamander.

Species Information

The Tiger Salamander is a member of the family Ambystomatidae, the mole salamanders, a North American group of heavy-bodied salamanders with distinct costal grooves, and laterally compressed (side to side flattened) tails. Matsuda et al. (2006) described them as having 'large blotches of yellow, cream or dirty white on a black, grey or dark brown background. Juveniles can be irregularly mottled and spotted without discernable blotches.' The Tiger Salamander is the largest terrestrial salamander in North America after the Giant Salamanders, and is active only at night. Neoteny is known from both western subspecies (Lannoo 2009).

According to Lannoo (2009), adult tiger salamanders can be terrestrial or aquatic (neotenic). Neotenic adults persist only in fishless, permanent water bodies. Lannoo states that: 'Terrestrial adults burrow and require deep friable soils. Tiger salamanders actively burrow by using their forelimbs (Gruberg and Stirling, 1972; Semlitsch, 1983c). Animals tend to live near the surface (12 cm deep; Semlitsch, 1983b) but can be found deeper'.



According to Lanoo (2009) 'Tiger Salamanders migrate to breeding wetlands each year, triggered by warm spring rains; males migrate earlier than females; eggs are laid in clusters, attached to submerged vegetation and detritus, including submerged branches and twigs; egg clusters rainge in number from 38-59, with incubation times ranging from 19 to 50 days, depending on water temperatures; length of the larval stage varies with environmental factors, but lasts a minimum of 10 weeks.'

Tiger Salamanders eat earthworms, mollsucs, insects and other invertebrates (Matsuda et al. 2006). Larvae are gape-limited, size selective feeders (Lanoo 2009). Cannabilism is reported (Lannoo 2009).


This species is found in the dry, southern interior of British Columbia, where it is associated with ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), bluebunch wheatgrass, and Douglas-fir. Adults are usually terrestrial and nocturnal, with a primarily subterranean habit. Adults are usually found near ponds and small lakes, in animal burrows and beneath coarse woody debris in damp areas. The species is most often encountered during the early spring breeding season, especially on rainy nights. In summer months, adults reside in the burrows of other animals to escape heat and low humidity. Tiger salamander populations require undisturbed breeding ponds and surrounding terrestrial habitats.


The Tiger Salamander is widespread in North America, with several subspecies. It is found from the southern Canadian prairies, through the U.S. plains states, into Mexico to south of Mexico City and along the Gulf Coast. In BC, this species is found in the Thompson-Okanagan Region, typically near lakes and ponds.


Conservation Concerns

Habitat loss to development, cattle incursions into ponds and soft terrain damage from off-road recreational vehicles are serious threats to this species in British Columbia.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS2RedE (Nov 2012)
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Ambystoma tigrinum (Green, 1825)
Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum (Green, 1825)
Salamandra tigrina Green, 1825

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Additional Photo Sources

Species References

Matsuda, Brent M., David M. Green and Patrick T. Gregory. 2006. Amphibians and Reptiles of British Columbia. Royal BC Museum Handbook. Victoria.

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2024-05-23 3:44:52 PM]
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