California Tiger Salamander


About Them: A large black and yellow salamander that is endemic to California. There are other Tiger Salamanders, but the California Tiger Salamander is genetically different than the other subspecies. The CTS are best equipped to deal with the habitat of California’s grasslands and vernal pools. Vernal pools are small bodies of water that are only filled during the wet season. This means the life that flourishes in them is fairly specialized and used to periods of no water.

During the dry season CTSs use burrows generally dug by small mammals to survive. They go into aestivation, kind of like hibernation. The distance between these burrows and the vernal pools can be as far as a mile.

Their plight: This is another species that needs a kind of habitat that is very difficult to meld into human development. Large open grassland or foothill spaces with safe tracks for a small amphibian to walk through. These are often used for development of homes and roads leaving the salamander few pathways that aren’t interrupted by human traffic.

Then they need depressions capable of being vernal pools, generally these are also removed because vernal pools breed mosquitos.

With their reliance on the burrows of small mammals, this means they are exposed to the pesticides that are used to try to eradicate the mammals.

Finally the introduction of invasive species such as the nonnative tiger salamander which, are cross breeding with California Tiger Salamanders. The hybrids are strong more aggressive and more able to survive, but they decimate the vernal pools which, will ultimately lead to ecosystem collapse. Nonnative bullfrogs have also been introduced and  are an overly aggressive predator to the CTS.   

What we should consider: The California Endangered Species Act is almost more narrow in its scope of expectation on individual and company compliance than the ESA. It can have such tough requirements even if the farmers, who now own most of the land that is good habitat for these salamanders, are interested in being involved, to be certified is more complicated or expensive than they can manage. One scientist* for Fish and Wildlife found law that allows them a work around to still be able to comply for the safety of these salamanders without being disinterested in participating because of complex paperwork. These laws are needed to help guide humans that don’t totally understand care of habitat and species. These help them make choices that are in the right direction for the environment, but it is equally important that the laws are written so they are also tenable for anyone.

What is being done: The California Tiger Salamander was only recently added to the Endangered Species List. It has been a fight to get attention and follow through for a recovery plan. In 2017 a final recovery plan was created.

How to help: Continue bringing awareness. Call into state senators when legislation is being passed that could affect the continued support of policy that protects wildlife, land, and waterways. Support locally.

Support can be:

  • donating to science groups
  • helping to ensure funding to the organizations that creating breeding programs
  • being a citizen scientist through
    • land restoration projects
    • trash clean ups
    • species counts
    • bio blitzes
  • getting people you know excited about how incredible our planet’s biodiversity is.

Joining your local Audubon Society is a great first step into finding activities and ways to become a citizen scientist and environmental advocate.

Here is FWS’s pamphlet on how to help:

Further Reading, my sources:


[This is a blog of my opinions. I speak for myself. I am a one person team and if I have misinterpreted a fact or made an error please feel free to get in touch to correct me. I will make edits and updates to post. I would appreciate corrections to be polite. I will not engage in hate.]

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