Now that Spring is here, I have salamanders on my mind. The
pools around northern Oakland County are no longer covered in ice and most have filled with water from April rains and snow melt, and salamanders are out of hibernation.
These beautiful creatures are Michigan’s largest salamander, and one that we have right here in the headwaters region as well as most of the Lower Peninsula. They can even be found in a few spots in the Upper Peninsula.
Tigers vary greatly in their appearance. Some are black with yellowish tiger’s stripes – hence the name Tiger Salamander. Others have greenish-grey coloring with little to no markings. But what all Tigers have in common are their long tails and thick, long bodies, averaging 7 to 9 inches and up to a record 13 inches long!
Tiger salamanders, unlike some of our other native salamanders, can be found in a variety of habitats, living in woodlands, meadows, marshes, and lake edges. They can even be found in farmland and residential areas. But they all require smaller, fishless ponds necessary for mating and breeding. And, even though we have plenty of ponds in our area which might be beneficial for Tigers, habitat fragmentation due to development and roads, in addition to pollutants and toxins in the environment pose a real threat to these amphibians and they are quite vulnerable due to these impacts.
So, maybe the next warm night, take a walk in your favorite woodland area, run a flashlight through the leaf litter, flip over a few logs, and you just might find some having emerged from their deep burrows underground to feed on worms, insects, slugs, snails, and even other salamander larvae.
The Michigan DNR has a short write-up at:
Dr. James Harding has several books on Michigan’s Herpetiles:
Michigan’s Widlife Facebook Page had a great write-up on Michigan’s Salamanders on April 11, 2013:
“Herping with Dylan” video - Spotted, Tiger and Small-Mouth Salamanders: