Western Tiger Salamander

The Western Tiger Salamander, also called the Barred Tiger Salamander, is a species native to North America, including Canada and Mexico. There are five known subspecies of the amphibian, one of which, the Sonoran, was listed as endangered in 1997. 


Western Tiger Salamanders are easily identified by their bright black and yellow color scheme. Their rounded head and flat bodies have a moist-looking appearance, with thick legs and toes. It should be noted that while this color combination is common, they can have a muddier or darker appearance depending on their habitat.

Their eyes sit high up on either side of their head, and their large mouths may give the impression of a smile. They can grow to be a foot long, though they average closer to six or seven inches, making them one of the largest salamanders in North America. 


Salamanders, like frogs, begin in a larval stage where they are wholly dependent on water to survive. During this period, they have gills, which eventually close as they grow and become terrestrial. Once they live on land, they prefer moist environments like wetlands. They may even spend time hiding out in the burrows of other animals in order to stay cool. 

Western Tiger Salamanders prefer to only emerge at night, as a way to avoid the heat as well as predators. Should the conditions of the habitat not be ideal, it is possible for salamanders to retain the gills of their larval phase and live in water until conditions improve. 

Environmental Insights

Tiger Salamanders, like many of their cousins, are what researchers call an "indicator species." Because of their sensitivity to climate and environmental changes, as well as their dependence on water, this species can be used to indicate the health of an ecosystem. The number of salamanders within a habitat can directly correlate to the amount of toxins found in local water and soil. 

Although this is a useful tool for researchers in a new area, salamanders' sensitivities have led to nearly 40% of the various species becoming endangered. 

Where are they?

Our Western Tiger Salamander can be found behind the glass on the left side of the Children's Animal Center.

Our salamander, Newt, is often half-covered in his substrate, so look closely for a flash of yellow!

Quick Facts

Scientific Name

Ambystoma mavortium

Species Survival Plan



Humid land with available water sources.


insects, snails, frogs, worms, and more.

Originally Native To

Western United States and Canada, Northern Mexico.


Long, flat body with round head. Dark coloration with lighter splotches usually of yellow.


10-16 years in the wild,
Captivity 25 years

Social Behavior

Occasionally share burrows with other species and socialize vaguely with other individuals.