Tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)

Tiger Salamander


  • Ranges in length from 140 to 180 millimetres (roughly 5.5 - 7 inches) and occasionally up to about 200 millimetres (just under eight inches).


  • In general, tiger salamanders are yellow-white with black, dark brown or dark green striping.
  • Older individuals may become relatively uniform in colour, varying from olive to brown or black.
  • Large, massive salamander with a blotchy complexion.
  • Blotches sometimes form cross-bands, creating an appearance like a tiger’s stripes.


  • Unlike frogs and toads, salamanders do not call.
tiger salamander distribution in Alberta
  • Tiger salamanders are widely distributed in southern and central Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Natural History


  • Tiger salamanders are found in a variety of habitats, including:
    • short-grass prairie
    • aspen parkland
    • boreal forest
    • subalpine areas up to elevations of roughly 2,800 metres (just under 9,200 feet)
  • Although more tolerant of dry conditions than many salamanders, tiger salamanders are usually found near lakes or small bodies of water.
  • They are generally nocturnal and quite secretive, living under logs and debris, or even in burrows.
  • Because tiger salamanders are primarily nocturnal, they are difficult to locate outside of the breeding season. Nonetheless, it is during the breeding season that salamanders are easiest to find when they congregate at breeding ponds.


  • Tiger salamanders have quite an appetite! They have been known to eat:
    • frogs
    • insects
    • small fish
    • young mice
    • worms
    • other salamanders

When Active

  • Tiger salamanders are active from spring until fall, especially during spring rains, when dozens may appear in an area.
Reproduction and Growth
Life Stage Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep
Breeding Breeding Bar: April 15 to June 25
Eggs Hatch Eggs Hatch Bar: April 28 to June 25
Transformation Transformation Bar: August 7 to September 16
or over winter

Breeding behavior

  • In early spring, males burrow to the surface and make their way to breeding sites, permanent or semi-permanent standing water.
  • Once the females arrive, breeding takes place even if the water is relatively cool, less than 10°C (50°F).
  • Eggs are laid singly or in small clusters on submerged objects.
  • It takes about three weeks for the eggs to hatch.

Appearance of young

  • When first hatched, the larvae are about 15 millimetres (about half an inch) long but they quickly grow to 75 to 80 millimetres (about three inches) over the next few weeks.
  • The colour is somewhat variable, ranging from dull yellow to olive green to dark brown, with a paler belly.

Growth process

  • Three to four months after hatching, the larvae transform into salamanders, or they may overwinter before transforming.
  • Some tiger salamander larvae never even make this transformation. Referred to as neotenous tiger salamanders, these individuals remain in the larval state but continue to grow and mature. They may even become larger than normal tiger salamanders.
Conservation and Management


The tiger salamander is classified as Secure in the current Status of Alberta Wildlife report and is considered not to be at risk.


  • Populations are healthy and widespread.

Current management

  • Amphibian Monitoring in Alberta
    The tiger salamander is being monitored under the Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program (AVAMP) and the Researching Amphibian Numbers in Alberta (RANA) program.
Similar Species
  • Grey tiger salamander
    • The grey tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum diaboli) is a subspecies that may be present along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. It can be distinguished from the tiger salamander in that it tends to have dark spots rather than large blotches.
  • Long-toed salamander
    A full-grown adult tiger salamander is larger than a long-toed salamander.


Page Information

Updated: Jan 7, 2014