UW ecology Ph.D. candidate Melanie Torres holds two blotched tiger salamanders while relocating them from a residential yard to more suitable habitat. The species is newly famous after the Wyoming Legislature voted in February to make them the state’s official amphibian. (photo by Allison Connell)

The blotched tiger salamander is the most Wyoming amphibian. So decreed the Wyoming Legislature during the 2019 Legislative session.

The new law went into effect immediately, and so these critters have held the title “state amphibian of Wyoming” under Wyoming statute since Feb. 19.

Senate File 50 – State amphibian swam through the Legislature with ease, though some did oppose it. Four senators voted against the measure on its last vote in that chamber, and nine representatives opposed giving the honorific to the creature which can grow to up to nine inches long and is native to Wyoming. It is the only salamander that dwells in Yellowstone National Park, according to the National Park Service.

This map from the United States Geological Survey shows the range of the blotched tiger salamander. Its native range aligns neatly with Wyoming’s borders, which is likely why lawmakers chose to make the creature the official state amphibian. (USGS website)

 

It was unclear if the pair of salamanders captured in this photo were aware of their elevated status.  

It could be the burden of representing the state drove them to take shelter in a burrow under a concrete walkway in Laramie. It’s more probable that the pair — a male and female — was following the species’ inclination to inhabit moist holes under rocks and logs and in burrows.

Wyoming sportsmen and -women will likely be proud to know their new state amphibian is a predator. Tiger salamanders feed on insects, aquatic invertebrate and even larger prey like frogs and other small vertebrates.

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The thick tiger salamanders do dig with their strong legs, but it’s unlikely these two were responsible for the sudden two foot hole that appeared in a reporter’s lawn last week. Alas, the shifting earth led to their ultimate discovery when the concrete roof above them was pried away for hole repairs.

In consultation with Melanie Torres, an ecology Ph.D. candidate from Wyoming’s university, the photographer relocated the Wyoming amphibians to more suitable habitat. The ecologist proclaimed the pair hale, hearty and fit to represent the Equality State.

Andrew Graham

Andrew Graham is reporting for WyoFile from Laramie. He covers state government, energy and the economy. Reach him at 443-848-8756 or at andrew@wyofile.com, follow him @AndrewGraham88

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  1. There used to be a seasonal pond on the Shadow Mountain ranch on Antelope Flats in Jackson Hole that was heavily populated by salamanders. These started out with external gills. Does that make them “axolotls”?