Salamander Surprise

by Carl Strang

Last week the herps (reptiles and amphibians) dominated the natural history news at Mayslake Forest Preserve. The biggest single item was an addition to the preserve species list that I frankly did not expect.

A tiger salamander!

While it is true that tiger salamanders are widespread if not abundant in DuPage County (the Observe Your Preserve website gives 15 or so known locations), I had thought that Mayslake’s agricultural history might have done them all in there, and we had no previous site record.

I was unprepared, I have to admit, but yet again the camera proved to be a valuable research tool.

For instance, I was able to determine the gender as male from the large swellings behind the hind legs. I’m inclined to name him Mickey thanks to the appropriately shaped yellow spot on the side of the tail toward the tip (rotate the big spot a quarter turn clockwise).

In my years at Fullersburg Woods I learned that individual differences in spot pattern can be used to distinguish fawns as long as those last. I am hopeful that the same is true for tiger salamanders.

Accordingly, I took a number of photos from different angles.

With the continuing improvement in the size and quality of the stream corridor marsh resulting from the hard work of Mayslake’s restoration volunteers, there is the potential for a big population increase in tiger salamanders, to go along with those of western chorus frogs and American toads.



  1. March 23, 2012 at 6:03 am

    […] corridor marsh have revealed more about the wetland’s invertebrates than its amphibians, though last week’s tiger salamander was a major coup. The salamander was not alone in its trap, as there also was one of the predaceous […]

  2. April 23, 2012 at 6:03 am

    […] of the year. As I posted earlier, in this second year the traps did indeed reveal the presence of tiger salamanders. In addition, though, the traps have caught a variety of larger invertebrates. One example is the […]

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