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Recovery Strategy for the Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) (Great Lakes Population) in Canada (Proposed)

Executive Summary

The Great Lakes population of the Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum), until 2008, was considered to belong to one of six subspecies of Tiger Salamanders, the Eastern Tiger Salamander (A. t. tigrinum). This recovery strategy will follow this taxonomic arrangement. One of the largest terrestrial salamanders in the world, adults average 18 to 21 cm in total length. They have yellow spots, blotches, or vertical streaks marking a dark brown, green or black back, and an olive-yellow belly with pale, yellow blotching. Clusters of pigmented eggs hatch in a month, developing into silvery gray larvae, 9 to 17 mm in total length. Metamorphosis may take two to five months, with sexual maturity reached in two to five years.

The Eastern Tiger Salamander ranges from Long Island, New York southward along the Atlantic coastal plain; westward along the Gulf of Mexico to southeastern Louisiana; and then northward from Alabama through much of lower Michigan. It ranges unevenly through many of the states north and east of that core range, but is absent from most of the Appalachian uplands and the lower Mississippi River delta region. Small, isolated populations occur elsewhere, including one or more of the Ohio islands in western Lake Erie.

The Great Lakes population is considered extirpated from Ontario, and, therefore, Canada, although it may never have existed there. Its occurrence in Canada is based on a single accepted specimen of questionable origin, reported to have been collected in 1915 at Point Pelee. Pelee Island specimens are unconfirmed, as are other specimens and reports from Ontario. Genetic testing cannot be used to verify their identity, and the Tiger Salamander genetic complement has not been found. Eastern Tiger Salamanders, located in extreme southeastern Manitoba, are part of the not-at-risk Prairie/Boreal population. Although they are genetically similar to Ohio and Indiana Eastern Tiger Salamanders, they are also genetically not unlike the Gray Tiger Salamander of the Great Plains.

The Eastern Tiger Salamander's habitat requirements and threats in Canada are hypothesized based on populations in the United States. The exact collection location and habitat of the Canadian specimen are unknown, and threats, if a population existed, can only be surmised.

Recovery of the Great Lakes population of the Eastern Tiger Salamander in Canada is considered neither biologically nor technically feasible at this time, nor is it considered appropriate. The historical existence of this population in Canada is questionable. It is hypothesized that the specimen may have originally been captured in the United States, or it may have been a stray from one of the western Lake Erie islands and therefore, potentially, a hybrid. Notwithstanding this, adjacent populations are considered neither appropriate nor secure enough to serve as a source of translocated individuals. Suitable breeding habitat does not appear to be available, or easily established to minimize threats. Existing terrestrial areas present pesticide contamination and road mortality threats, and shoreline erosion threatens to introduce predaceous fishes to the only potentially suitable and available breeding habitat. Repatriation attempts elsewhere have had limited success, largely due to the Eastern Tiger Salamander's fidelity to breeding sites, and their high rate of egg mortality. Furthermore, given that Tiger Salamanders have not been present in the region for at least 90 years, if they were ever present, other organisms may now fill their ecological niche. This feasibility determination will be re-evaluated, as warranted, in response to new information. It is recommended that field investigators be encouraged to report possible sightings, that confirmation be sought where possible and that C. A. Campbell's specimen be genetically tested to rule out that it is different from hybrid, non-Tiger Salamander specimens already analyzed from the same site.

Critical habitat cannot be defined, at this time, due to the uncertainty surrounding the existence of this population in Canada, even historically, and the lack of habitat and location specificity associated with the only accepted record. Habitat needs in the United States may not apply in Canada.