Species Profile

Tiger Salamander Great Lakes population

Scientific Name: Ambystoma tigrinum
Taxonomy Group: Amphibians
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2012
Last COSEWIC Designation: Non-active
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Extirpated

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Habitat | Biology | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Tiger Salamander

Tiger Salamander Photo 1



The terrestrial adult is usually 200-300 mm in length and 40-70 g in weight. It has a primarily dark olive to dark grey or brown background colour with lighter olive to yellow spots. Newly hatched larvae measure 9-15 mm in length, are silvery grey, and have three pairs of feathery external gills.


Distribution and Population

The species is widely distributed across North America. It occurs from the mixed-wood and boreal forests of Alberta and Saskatchewan to the north, down to Mexico in the south. In Canada, it is found in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Great Lakes population occurred in southern Ontario, but the species has not been seen there since 1915, when it was recorded in Point Pelee National Park.



The species occurs in montane, aspen parkland and grassland regions. Key habitat features include friable soil for burrowing, fishless semi-permanent to permanent water bodies for breeding, and possibly small mammal burrows for daily cover and suitable overwintering sites.



Shortly after hatching, larvae first begin to grow their front limbs, followed by the development of the hind limbs. In the presence of high larval densities, especially when there is a whole range of larval body sizes in the larvae population, cannibalistic larvae may develop, eating other salamander larvae, including individuals as large as themselves. During metamorphosis, larvae resorb their gills as well as their caudal and dorsal fin membranes. Sometimes, certain individuals do not undergo metamorphosis, but become sexually mature in larval form. These adults are referred to as neotenes. Both types of adults may be found in a single population, although a given population is usually composed predominantly of either neotenic adults or terrestrial adults.


Major threats to Tiger Salamanders mirror those faced by many other amphibians. In particular, Tiger Salamanders face loss of upland habitat due to encroachment and roads, and loss of breeding habitat due to fish stocking, chemical run-off, and draining of wetlands. There is some evidence that Tiger Salamanders are philopatric, therefore destruction of a breeding site may result in loss of the entire population using that breeding site.Two major groups of pathogens (Chytrid fungi and Iridoviruses) have been isolated from Tiger Salamanders in Canada, but their significance to the overall health of populations is not yet understood.



Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) (Great Lakes Population) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

1 record(s) found.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) (Great Lakes Population) in Canada (2009)

    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.