Blotched Tiger Salamanders in Oregon

This report comes from Frances in Southern Oregon.

Tiger Salamander in Southern Oregon

My two year old pond seems to have attracted these salamanders. I am in Southern Oregon, near Klamath Falls, and on the California border. I have been told they are Tiger Salamanders, but they do not have any bright coloring.

They are mottled and striped, and the largest one I have seen in my leaf trap was about 14″ long. The pond is about two and a half feet deep, so I can’t see how many there are, and if there are any of my goldfish left. Some of the fish were about 6 – 8 inches long when I last spotted them in late summer.

The salamander in the photo was on my driveway in early February of this year. I am pretty sure they are eating all the frogs we had. I am not hearing any croaking, and the two that frequented the rim of my hot tub are not around now. I am not sure if there is anything that can be done to balance things a bit, or if some of them are becoming permanent pond dwellers and not losing their gills, as I understand happens sometimes. Do you have any suggestions or ideas? Thank you. If these are some kind of hybrid, I don’t know how good they are for the environment.


I sent this query along to a few experts and here are their responses:

Matt Ellerbeck – The Salamander Man says:

Your email/inquiry about salamanders was forwarded to me from Susan Newman at Frogs Are Green.

The salamander in the photo you sent is indeed a Tiger Salamander. They are variable in color, so if you Google searched them, it is possible that you came across images that didn’t resemble this individual salamander. Tiger Salamanders are native to Oregon so pose no environmental threat. On the contrary, salamanders are indicators of a healthy environment!

You also mentioned some concern for your frogs. Tiger Salamanders may occasionally take frogs, however, they primarily feed on insects and invertebrates. In fact, Tiger Salamander tadpoles (or larvae) prey on mosquito larvae and therefore help keep the number of these pests down! As such, I wouldn’t consider them a real threat to the frogs.

Due to the benefits they provide I hope you will accept the presence of these salamanders. If you want to learn about things you can to do help them (as they are both amphibians such efforts will also benefit frogs too) please visit the following: Save The Salamanders – How You Can Help


I asked Matt why the frogs may have disappeared?

He replied:

Frances mentioned she didn’t hear the frogs croaking – perhaps the frogs are indeed still around but merely not singing at this time. I believe most frogs sing seasonally, or only at certain times. I have a backyard pond with frogs, and sometimes I may not see them for days on end, and suddenly they will reappear.

I have also read that cats will kill frogs, so they, or other predators (birds, snakes), may have taken them.

These are all plausible causes, however, I can’t say for certain. The reality is, any backyard pond (whether natural or human-man) that has animals in it will also attract various predators.


Keith Gisser, Herpetologist and founder of Herps Alive! says:

Blotched Tiger Salamander. Pretty dull-colored animal normally compared to other (sub)species.

While pretty voracious eaters, rare (in my experience) for them to eat frogs or fish (although they will eat fish when in larval form) – they prefer invertebrates.


Sara Viernum, Founder of The Wandering Herpetologist says:

Agreed! It’s a Blotched Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma mavortuim melanostictum). There is a small, known population (native) in southern Oregon near the border. Like all tiger salamander species these will eat anything that fits in their mouths including invertebrates, lizards, mice, snakes, frogs, tadpoles, small fish, and other salamanders. Since they are a native predator in your area they may initially cause a decrease in the local frog population but once they become established in your pond their numbers will most likely balance out with the frogs.

This site has some good info about the western tiger salamander group. California Herps – Salamanders


Baby Iguanas As Prizes?

We’ve all been to our local county fair, rode on the ferris wheel, sprayed the water in the clown’s mouth, maybe even won a big stuffed frog. But what’s happening in Ohio (and perhaps other places) is the wrong way to get young people interested in caring for wildlife. Naturally, as people walk by a booth and see what seems like an easy game to win and the prize is a real, live, baby iguana, they are so tempted. Yes, they’ll win a baby iguana! This is so very wrong and has to be banned, now!

Here’s the story by Keith Gisser, founder of Herps Alive!

The Ohio State Fair in Columbus featured a booth that offered live iguanas as prizes.

The Ohio State Fair in Columbus featured a booth that offered live iguanas as prizes.

It started as one of those non-funny jokes. A friend posted this photo on Facebook last Tuesday and tagged me, asking, “How soon until you start getting calls on these, Keith ?”  The answer turned out to be Sunday. That didn’t take long at all, did it.

An Ohio State Fair booth was offering baby iguanas as prizes. The needed skill? Not knowing how to care for a live animal. Let alone a tough-to-care-for properly green iguana (Iguana iguana). But knowing how to toss a Ping Pong ball into a fishbowl.

These days most places don’t even give away love goldfish. They give a coupon for the goldfish. That makes sense. Win. Think about if you really want the animal. Go to pet store. Buy proper equipment. Then flush him two weeks later (the expected life span of a goldfish is two weeks. I am quite sure of this).

But not so with iguanas. A young man won his and brought it back to Cleveland (a two-hour plus drive plus who knows how long carrying him around in a box while enjoying healthy far food like chocolate dipped bacon.  And a ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl. He was there with friends and mom and dad were a bit surprised. But they did the right thing. They went to the pet store, started reading the care sheet and realized this was way beyond what they were prepared for. They called around and eventually the Cleveland Zoo referred them to the Herps Alive Foundation. I was doing an outreach event at  a Petco store and arranged to pick him up.

Baby Iguana rescued by Herps Alive

The iguana in question.

Fortunately this little hatchling is pretty healthy and eating. With full spectrum light and heat he should live a long and happy life. We hope to find a permanent home for him soon.

You might be surprised that after my bad experience with reptile laws in Ohio, that I really think we need a law banning these guys (and all live animals) as prizes. Many states and localities ban this practice, but not our state. Time for a change. Or a change.org perhaps. Give ‘em a coupon. Or a stuffed iguana.


Keith GisserKeith Gisser runs the Ohio based, award-winning, nationally recognized interactive reptile and amphibian program Herps Alive! He has been a herpetology educator for over thirty years and currently maintains about 100 reptiles, amphibians and crocodilians, nearly all adoptions or rescues, about half of which are used in his programs.