The California tiger salamander is a stocky, colorfully spotted salamander that enjoys vernal pools found in California’s grasslands and small streams for breeding. They do not breed in years where there is not enough rainfall. This salamander is listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In Sonoma County, the expansion of housing and other development projects threatens 95% of the tiger salamander’s habitat. Most of their populations in the central valley have been eliminated by development and agriculture.
The health of tiger salamander populations is also threatened by the use of pesticides in and upstream of areas of their habitat. Due to their sensitivity to chemicals such as pesticides, salamanders are good indicators of the overall ecological health of an area. The absence of native tiger salamanders is a good indicator of poor ecological health. Tiger salamanders rely on the burrows of ground squirrels, gophers and other burrowing critters for shelter. They spend most of their lives underground. The elimination of these ground squirrels due to concerns about their effect on cattle grazing is a threat to native tiger salamander populations.
Don’t smash me!
The best time to spot a tiger salamander is during the rainy season (November to May) when they make their mass migrations to vernal pools for breeding. Unfortunately, they often have to cross roads, which leaves them vulnerable to traffic when they are making their way to vernal pools at night.
Predation by non-native bullfrogs and hybridization are additional threats to California tiger salamanders. According to one study, when non-native tiger salamanders breed with native tiger salamanders, the hybrid offspring survive in higher numbers than the native offspring.
That is my wetland, buddy!
In August of 2011, with the diligent legal efforts of the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 47,383 acres as revised critical habitat for the California tiger salamander in Sonoma County. This decision still left out important pieces of their habitat, but it was a big step in the right direction for the survival of the California tiger salamander.
How you can help
There are many things that we can do to help improve and preserve habitat for the California tiger salamander. We can use less water for showers, washing dishes and watering plants by always turning the faucet/hose off when we are not using it. Less residential water use means more water for rivers and wetlands that provide habitat for native tiger salamanders. One way to be sure where your food comes is to know your farmer. Knowing your farmer also gives you information on whether the farmer uses chemicals on his/her crops. Pesticides pollute streams and wetlands in which tiger salamanders live. You can also help out this salamander by donating time and/or money to organizations like the Center for Biological Diversity that are working hard to secure habitat for endangered species such as the California tiger salamander.