Tiger Salamander

Ambystoma mavortium


Adult Tiger Salamanders are adorable, with short, rounded snouts, thick necks, short thick legs, and a long tail. Coloration varies with location and age. They are dark brown, green or black with orange-yellow, yellow, or yellow-white blotches. They are about 5.5-7 inches from nose to tip, with some individuals getting closer to 8 inches.

Eggs are laid singly or in small clusters on submerged objects. Larvae are about 0.5 inches when first hatched, and then grow to about 3-5 inches before metamorphosis. They can over-winter in the larval form, and sometimes take several years to reach maturity, though most mature in 3-4 months. Larvae have a large head with long, wide gill stalks. They are dull yellow, green or dark brown with pale bellies. Occasionally, some tiger salamander larvae never metamorphose into the adult form, and live their entire lives in the larval form, though they do grow to mature size, or even bigger than metamorphosed adults (7-15 inches!). These are referred to as “Neotenous”.

Tiger salamanders are ravenous eaters, and will eat frogs, insects, small fish, young mice, worms and even other salamanders.

The Tiger Salamander is one of Alberta’s most common herp species, behind the Wood Frog and the Boreal Chorus Frog. They are found in most of Central and Southern Alberta. They like short-grass prairie, aspen parkland, boreal forest and subalpine regions. Like most amphibians, they do breed in the water, and their larval stages are aquatic. Tiger Salamanders breed in semi-permanent to permanent fish-less wetlands. As adults, Tiger Salamanders are primarily terrestrial. They are largely nocturnal and spend a lot of time underground in burrows, so while they are widespread in Alberta, you might not see them. That said, people often tell us about finding these guys in window wells, swimming pools and gardens.

If you are herping for Tiger Salamanders, check under logs and rocks near water sources. They are active from spring to fall, and like to come out in the rain!


Tiger Salamanders are considered Secure in Alberta, though this status could change as global warming leads to habitat loss and degradation.

External link opens in new tab or window AEP Alberta - Tiger Salamander
External link opens in new tab or window Elkisland - Tiger Salamander
A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians” 3rd Ed, Peterson Field Guides, Robert C. Stebbins, 2003.

Photo by Teresa Bousquet