Eastern Tiger Salamander

Photo by Brian Ball

Enlarge photo

Scientific Name: Ambystoma tigrinum

Classification: Nongame species-State listed as threatened

Abundance: Range is shaded in blue (parts of Wake
Hoke, Scotland, Robeson and Moore counties only)


Species Profile (PDF)



Eastern Tiger Salamander (Photo by Jeff Hall)

Additional Information

The eastern tiger salamander is named for the yellowish blotches running down its dorsum that can make it appear tiger-striped. The eastern tiger salamander is a type of mole salamander that spends most of its life underground and above-ground activity usually occurs at night. It is rarely seen outside of its breeding season. The eastern tiger salamander is the largest salamander in the Ambystomatidae, or mole salamander family. Body color varies from a dark gray or gray-brown with yellowish blotches on the back, sides and belly. Males and females look much the same, except the female’s tail is shorter and does not flatten like the male’s during the breeding season. Tiger salamanders, like other mole salamanders, have five toes on each hind foot and four on each front foot.

Tiger salamanders need two types of habitat to survive—ponds for breeding and moist earth for burrowing. In North Carolina, they favor upland areas with sandy soils and sandhills or flatwoods vegetation. Breeding ponds are generally found within longleaf pine forests. Once a year, tiger salamanders migrate from their terrestrial homes to a breeding site as little as a few yards or as far as a half mile away. They generally choose clear, fish-free ponds that dry up from time to time. These temporary, or ephemeral, ponds produce the lush vegetation tiger salamanders need for cover and egg-laying surfaces. Small farm ponds or large bays of up to 100 acres are frequently used as well, as long as these wetlands are relatively fish free. Learn more by reading the Eastern Tiger Salamander species profile.


The Eastern tiger salamander is classified as a nongame species with no open season. It is further classified as state threatened and cannot be taken except under a special permit issued by the Wildlife Commission's Executive Director. More information.

There are no reported problems with this species. 

Although the tiger salamander has been popular in the pet trade, the biggest cause of population declines is loss of habitat.  Like many salamander species, tiger salamanders require protection of the wetlands they breed in and the upland habitat surrounding these wetlands where they spend much of their adult life. With suitable forests and upland wetlands, people and tiger salamanders can coexist. However, clearing land for farms in the late 1800s through the 1950s reduced much of the tiger salamander’s living room. The conversion of pine savannas to timber plantations as well as draining of suitable wetlands has limited habitat further. To counteract these habitat losses, Wildlife Commission staff have restored and are managing isolated wetlands throughout the salamander’s historic range. Every year in late-summer, early fall, Wildlife Commission staff survey these sites for tiger salamanders, as well as other priority amphibian and reptile species.