What Is The Colorado State Amphibian?

The western tiger salamander inhabits all sixty-four of Colorado's state counties.
The western tiger salamander inhabits all sixty-four of Colorado's state counties.

Colorado is a US state located in the western part of the country, where it encompasses the northeastern edge of the Colorado Plateau, the western portion of the Great Plains, and a large part of the Southern Rocky Mountains. It covers an area of 104,094 sq mi and has a population of 5,695,564, which ranks as the eighth most extensive and twenty-first most populous state in the country. In addition to its official flag, Colorado has numerous state symbols, including a state fish (greenback cutthroat trout), cactus (claret-cup cactus), bird (lark bunting), flower (Rocky Mountain columbine), and insect (Colorado hairstreak butterfly). Colorado also has an official state amphibian: the western tiger salamander.

Western Tiger Salamander

The official Colorado state amphibian is the western tiger salamander, which is also known as the barred tiger salamander and scientifically named Ambystoma mavortium. The western tiger salamander is a mole salamander species that inhabits western parts of the United States, southwestern Canada, and northern Mexico. It is the largest salamander species in North America and can grow to a length of up to 12 inches. The species has a sturdy body, a broad head, and its color varies across its range. The dorsal part of the western tiger salamander is black, dark brown or grey, with spots and bars of muddy yellow. Larvae have pale stripes on their sides and alternating light and dark blotches at the center of the dorsal surface.


The western tiger salamander is a terrestrial species that typically inhabits woodlands, coniferous forests, and lowland deciduous forests. The salamander can also be found in rough grounds and open fields, deserts and semi-deserts, grasslands, upland meadows, and even in streams. They are also known to live in abandoned invertebrate and mammal burrows. 


The western tiger salamander is a nocturnal species and an opportunistic feeder that eats earthworms, slugs, and insects. Adult western tiger salamanders are terrestrial but aquatic during the larval stage. The species also lays its eggs in water. Cannibalism has been reported among the western tiger salamander.

Selection As State Amphibian

Colorado designated the western tiger salamander as its official state amphibian in 2012. School teacher John Babiak is credited with promoting the species, as he and his children researched all amphibians in Colorado and claimed that the western tiger salamander would be the best choice. Babiak and his children picked the western tiger salamander because it inhabits all sixty-four of Colorado's state counties, from the Eastern Plains to the Alpine Tundra. Additionally, numerous fossils found in Colorado confirm that the history of the western tiger salamander in the state dates back more than 150,000 years.

State Representative Angela Williams presented the bill to the House of Representatives on January 20, 2012. Another committee member proposed that the northern leopard frog become the state amphibian, but the species was dismissed because it inhabits only fifty-eight of Colorado's counties. Senator Joyce Foster sponsored the bill in the Senate, which voted in favor of the western tiger salamander, and the bill was subsequently signed by Governor Hickenlooper on March 16, 2012.


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