For kids from fourth grade up.
California Tiger Salamander
The California tiger salamanders around
Sonoma County and Santa Barbara are endangered.
This means that they are in danger of dying out. We are working with
people to save the Sonoma salamanders.
CA tiger salamanders in the Central Valley are
threatened. This means that we are concerned
about them but they are not endangered at this time.
This is a large, stocky
salamander. It has a broad, rounded snout. Its small
eyes have black irises. They stick out. Adult males are about 20 cm long. (About 8 inches) Females are about 17 cm. (About 7 inches) "Tiger" comes from the white or yellow bars on CA tiger salamanders. The background color is black.
Adults mostly eat insects. Larvae (see sidebar) eat things like algae, mosquito larvae, tadpoles and insects.
Grasslands and low foothills with pools or ponds for breeding.
A CA tiger salamander spends most of its life on land. Actually, "in the land" - it lives underground. It uses burrows made by squirrels and other animals.
Ponds are necessary for breeding. Natural breeding areas, mostly vernal pools, are being destroyed. (See Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office's Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp Species Account.)
Ranch stock ponds help take the place of vernal pools for breeding. We are working ranchers to preserve rangeland.
Around November, salamanders come out of their burrows. This is likely to be on a very stormy night. They go as much as a mile to a pond to breed.
Adults reach sexual maturity in 4 or 5 years.
Although they may live as
long as 10 years, they may reproduce only once. Some don't reproduce at
all. They may be killed before becoming
sexually mature. Or they may not find a pond for mating, e.g. in very
Females lay eggs (see photo) singly or in small
groups. They may lay as many as 1,300 eggs.
These are usually attached to vegetation. Eggs hatch in about 10 to 14
Around late spring, salamanders leave the ponds
to find burrows.
Birds such as herons and egrets.
Mostly the Central Valley of California.
around Santa Barbara and Sonoma.
Urban development and farming reduce
Squirrel control programs may reduce the number
burrows where salamanders can live.
The poison used on squirrels affects salamanders too.
Nonnative salamanders have been imported for
use as fish bait. They may out-compete
the CA tiger salamanders. Nonnative bullfrogs kill larvae.
Catching a CA tiger salamander
requires a permit. But you may be able to see
larvae swimming around. With a copy of Pond Life (See More Reading below), you can
identify lots of pond animals.
You Can Do to Help Wildlife and Plants (201 KB PDF) for ideas
about how to help threatened and endangered species.
Pond Life by by George K. Reid, Sally D. Kaicher and Tom Dolan. Golden Guides from St. Martin's Press. A tiny,
inexpensive book that is a must
for anyone studying ponds.
CaliforniaHerps.com has lots of
information about snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles and salamanders. See
their species account about the California tiger salamander.
Learn about the research of Michael van Hattem in Night
of the Salamander by Joy Lanzendorfer. Bay
Nature, January-March 2005
Words to Learn
Biologists who study snakes, frogs, turtles, salamanders and other reptiles and
amphibians are called herpetologists.
Herpetologists call the California tiger
salamander Ambystoma californiense.
Scientific names are in Latin or Greek.
Salamanders are in the Ambystomatidae family.
Newborn salamanders are called larvae. See photo. This is the stage known as "tadpoles" in frogs and toads.