Species Profile

Western Tiger Salamander Southern Mountain population

Scientific Name: Ambystoma mavortium
Taxonomy Group: Amphibians
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2012
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B1ab(ii,iii,v)c(iv)+2ab(ii,iii,v)c(iv)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This large salamander has a range restricted to southern British Columbia which mostly overlaps with populated and modified agricultural areas in the South Okanagan Valley. The species has suffered loss of available breeding habitat through wetland draining, contamination, and stocking with fish. Salamander habitats are fragmented by roads and urban and agricultural developments that continue to expand, resulting in disruption of migration routes, mortality through roadkill, and loss of upland habitat for terrestrial adults. Increased drought and lowering water tables, as well as introduced Bullfrogs, also threaten this species.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: The Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) was originally assessed by COSEWIC in November 2001 as three separate populations: Great Lakes population (Extirpated), Prairie / Boreal population (Not at Risk), and Southern Mountain population (Endangered). In November 2012, Tiger Salamander was split into two separate species, Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) and Western Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma mavortium), each with two different populations that received separate designations. The Southern Mountain population of the Western Tiger Salamander was assessed as Endangered.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Description

Western Tiger Salamanders are among the largest salamanders in North America and are top predators in the largely fishless ponds and lakes where they occur. Terrestrial adults have a blotched, barred or reticulate pattern of yellow or off-white on a dark background. Genetic and morphological evidence indicates that the Western Tiger Salamander, consisting of several subspecies, is a separate species from the Eastern Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum, with which it was previously combined as a single species. Much of the older literature does not necessarily distinguish the Western Tiger Salamander from the Eastern Tiger Salamander, as currently recognized. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Distribution and Population

Western Tiger Salamanders have a wide distribution in arid interior regions of western North America. They occur along the border of the Prairie ecozone in Alberta, east to the Red River in Manitoba, south into western Minnesota and down to Texas, west along the border of Mexico and then north through Arizona and along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains north to Alberta. There is a disjunct distribution in northern Oregon, Idaho and through Washington into the southern Okanagan region of British Columbia. Tiger salamanders in British Columbia are disjunct from populations in the remainder of Canada and occur in the Southern Mountain ecozone, whereas the remainder of the Canadian distribution occurs in the Prairie ecozone in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This distribution is likely the result of post-glacial expansion into Canada from at least two points on either side of the Rocky Mountains. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Habitat

Western Tiger Salamanders occupy a variety of open habitats, including grasslands, parkland, subalpine meadows, and semi-deserts. Key habitat features include sandy or friable (crumbly) soils surrounding semi-permanent to permanent water bodies lacking predatory fish. Terrestrial Western Tiger Salamanders burrow actively into soil or utilize small mammal burrows for refuges and over-wintering. Breeding habitats must hold water for the 3 to 7 months required to complete larval development. Populations of completely aquatic neotenic adults (animals that retain larval form after sexual maturity) are occasionally found in cool, fishless lakes. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Biology

Western Tiger Salamanders migrate to breeding sites in wetlands or lakes following spring rains soon after ice-off. Females lay eggs singly or in small clusters attached to twigs or stems of emergent plants below the water’s surface. Juveniles migrate en mass from breeding sites into terrestrial habitats in late summer. Males may reach sexual maturity in their second year, while females mature a year or two later. Generation time is approximately 5 - 6 years. Both larvae and adults are carnivorous and feed on a wide range of small prey. Western Tiger Salamanders do not fare well where predaceous fish have been introduced, or are naturally occurring, as all life stages are preyed upon. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Threats

Tiger salamanders face the same pressures and threats as other amphibian species with separate requirements for terrestrial adults and aquatic larvae. Over much of the species’ Canadian range, there are immense pressures from loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitat. In the Prairies, a change has occurred in land use from grazing and low-scale agriculture to large-scale farming and conversion of habitat to accommodate growing urban populations and expansion of oil and gas developments. Within the core area of the species’ distribution in British Columbia, in the Okanagan Valley, there has been rapid habitat loss due to housing and vineyard developments with associated pollutant run-off. The introduced American Bullfrog poses an additional threat in this region. Increasing human populations and road densities have greatly increased the potential for road mortality during seasonal migrations between breeding sites and terrestrial overwintering and foraging habitats. Fish stocking for recreational fishing, aquaculture, and mosquito-control can have severe impacts on tiger salamander populations and continue to occur throughout the species’ Canadian range. The emergence of infectious diseases, specifically the widespread Ambystoma tigrinum virus, can decimate local populations. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Western Tiger Salamander, Southern Mountain population, is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Documents

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.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Western Tiger Salamander Ambystoma mavortium in Canada (2013-11-04)

    Western Tiger Salamanders are among the largest salamanders in North America and are top predators in the largely fishless ponds and lakes where they occur. Terrestrial adults have a blotched, barred or reticulate pattern of yellow or off-white on a dark background. Genetic and morphological evidence indicates that the Western Tiger Salamander, consisting of several subspecies, is a separate species from the Eastern Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum, with which it was previously combined as a single species. Much of the older literature does not necessarily distinguish the Western Tiger Salamander from the Eastern Tiger Salamander, as currently recognized.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Western Tiger Salamander, Southern Mountain population (2013-12-18)

    This large salamander has a range restricted to southern British Columbia which mostly overlaps with populated and modified agricultural areas in the South Okanagan Valley. The species has suffered loss of available breeding habitat through wetland draining, contamination, and stocking with fish. Salamander habitats are fragmented by roads and urban and agricultural developments that continue to expand, resulting in disruption of migration routes, mortality through roadkill, and loss of upland habitat for terrestrial adults. Increased drought and lowering water tables, as well as introduced Bullfrogs, also threaten this species.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) Southern Mountain population in Canada (2017-12-22)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister under SARA for the Tiger Salamander, Southern Mountain population, and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of British Columbia, as per section 39(1) of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Province of British Columbia provided the attached recovery plan for the Blotched Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma mavortium) (Part 2) as science advice to the jurisdictions responsible for managing the species in British Columbia. It was prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (volume 151, number 12, 2017) (2017-06-14)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of the assessments done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 152, number 4, 2018) (2018-02-21)

    Biodiversity is rapidly declining worldwide as species become extinct. Today’s extinction rate is estimated to be between 1 000 and 10 000 times higher than the natural rate. Biodiversity is positively related to ecosystem productivity, health and resiliency (i.e. the ability of an ecosystem to respond to changes or disturbances). Given the interdependency of species, a loss of biodiversity can lead to decreases in ecosystem function and services (e.g. natural processes such as pest control, pollination, coastal wave attenuation, temperature regulation and carbon fixing). These services are important to the health of Canadians, and also have important ties to Canada’s economy. Small changes within an ecosystem resulting in the loss of individuals and species can therefore result in adverse, irreversible and broad-ranging effects.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report – 2012-2013 (2013-09-24)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2012 to September 2013) from November 25 to November 30, 2012 and from April 28 to May 3, 2013. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 73 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 2 Endangered: 28 Threatened: 19 Special Concern: 19 Data Deficient: 4 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 73 Of the 73 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 50 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Related Information

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) Listing Plan 2016 to 2018 (2017-09-29)

    The status of wildlife species is assessed by an independent panel of expert Canadian scientists, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). 149 terrestrial species were assessed as at-risk by COSEWIC between 2009 and 2016 and are eligible for listing under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to be considered by the Governor-in-Council (GIC) on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment: 86 species would be new additions, 54 currently listed species would be reclassified and 9 species would be updated to reflect changes in their recognized designatable units. A three-year listing plan has been developed to address all 149 terrestrial species and listing decisions for most species are anticipated by the end of 2018. Making amendments to Schedule 1 of SARA is a two-step process. The first step is for the GIC to propose an amendment through an order in council published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for a 30-day public comment period. The second step is for the GIC to make a final decision on whether or not to make amendments to Schedule 1 of SARA, taking into consideration comments received during the 30-day public comment period. The amendments are made through an order in council published in the Canada Gazette, Part II. Both orders are accompanied by a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS) which presents the implications of listing the species or changing their status. Publishing this plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency about the Government of Canada’s plan to make listing decisions under the Species at Risk Act. NOTE: The information presented below is intended to provide openness and transparency with respect to when terrestrial species might be considered for listing under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. It is intended to assist anyone who may wish to provide comments on such listing considerations. Given any number of factors can affect the timing of a listing decision; the Plan is subject to change. Accordingly, the Plan will be periodically updated.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

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