New York Natural Heritage Program
Tiger Salamander
Ambystoma tigrinum (Green, 1825)

Habitat [-]
Pond-breeding salamanders such as tiger salamanders spend the majority of their lives in the terrestrial areas that surround the ponds in which they breed. Tiger salamanders, for example, spend an average of 12 days per year in breeding ponds and the remaining 97% of the year in surrounding terrestrial habitats. Adults are usually found within 250 meters of breeding ponds, but usually much closer (Madison and Farrand 1998). In New York, tiger salamanders are found in pine barrens or woodlands that contain friable soils suitable for burrowing or extensive small mammal burrow systems, and permanent or seasonal ponds (primarily kettleholes) for breeding (Levy 2001; Gibbs et al. 2007; Madison and Titus 2009). The salamanders seem to prefer deciduous (red maple and oak spp.) and mixed pine-deciduous (pitch pine-oak spp.) forests with a blueberry understory. In general, the salamanders take refuge in burrows that are located in areas with a less dense understory relative to surrounding areas and with high dominant deciduous canopy cover (Madison and Titus 2009). The salamanders favor ponds that have at least some surrounding forest but that are open to sunlight (i.e., not under forest canopy) (Gibbs et al. 2007; Madison and Titus 2009). In these more exposed breeding ponds, adults prefer deep, vegetated areas, but in more shaded ponds, adults inhabit non-vegetated areas (Madison and Farrand 1998). The most suitable breeding ponds are usually those without predatory fish. However, in ponds with fish, adults occupy shallower zones (Madison and Farrand 1998). Submerged objects in ponds, such as branches, provide sites for egg mass attachment. If natural ponds are not available, the salamanders will breed in man-made depressions such as farm ponds and stormwater retention basins (Levy 2001; Gibbs et al. 2007).

Associated Ecological Communities [-]
  • Coastal plain pond
    The aquatic community of the permanently flooded portion of a coastal plain pond with seasonally, and annually fluctuating water levels. These are shallow, groundwater-fed ponds that occur in kettle-holes or shallow depressions in the outwash plains south of the terminal moraines of Long Island, and New England. A series of coastal plain ponds are often hydrologically connected, either by groundwater, or sometimes by surface flow in a small coastal plain stream.
  • Coastal plain pond shore
    The gently sloping shore of a coastal plain pond with seasonally and annually fluctuating water levels. Plants growing on the pond shore vary with water levels. In dry years when water levels are low there is often a dense growth of annual sedges, grasses, and herbs. Submerged and floating-leaved aquatic plants, such as fragrant waterlily and pondweeds, may become "stranded" on the exposed shore. In wet years when the water level is high only a few emergents and floating-leaved aquatics may be noticeable. The vegetation of this pond shore community can change dramatically from one year to the next depending on fluctuations in groundwater levels.
  • Pitch pine-oak forest
    A mixed forest that typically occurs on well-drained, sandy soils of glacial outwash plains or moraines; it also occurs on thin, rocky soils of ridgetops. The dominant trees are pitch pine mixed with one or more of the following oaks: scarlet oak, white oak, red oak, or black oak.
  • Pitch pine-oak-heath woodland
    A pine barrens community that occurs on well-drained, infertile, sandy soils. The structure of this community is intermediate between a shrub-savanna and a woodland. Pitch pine and white oak are the most abundant trees.
  • Vernal pool
    An aquatic community of one or more intermittently ponded, small, shallow depressions typically within an upland forest. Vernal pools are typically flooded in spring or after a heavy rainfall, but are usually dry during summer. Substrate is typically dense leaf litter over hydric soils. Vernal pools typically occupy a confined basin (i.e., a standing waterbody without a flowing outlet), but may have an intermittent stream flowing out of it during high water. This community includes a diverse group of invertebrates and amphibians that depend upon temporary pools as breeding habitat. These include amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans, mollusks, annelids, and insects.