They have small, rounded heads with thick bodies and tails. Coloration varies greatly by geographic subspecies but includes black, brown, grey or yellowish coloring with grey or yellow stripes or blotches.
Barred tiger salamanders are one of the longest terrestrial salamander species in North America, possibly the world, reaching lengths of 13 to 14 inches (33 to 36 centimeters).
The barred tiger salamander ranges from southern Texas to Canada and from California, east to the Dakotas and Oklahoma. They are found in a variety of diverse habitats including forests, fields, meadows, grasslands and deserts. As adults, these primarily nocturnal salamanders spend most of their time underground in burrows.
As adults, barred tiger salamanders eat a variety of small invertebrates. Both as adults and larvae, they have exhibited cannibalism.
At the Smithsonian's National Zoo they are fed crickets, earthworms and prepared diets.
Breeding takes place throughout the year and timing varies by subspecies. As with most members of this family, barred tiger salamanders gather in groups by pools and slow streams after rainfall for spawning. Females lay eggs individually or in small clusters on the substrate or items in the water. They hatch between 19 and 50 days later, depending on environmental conditions.
As with other species of salamanders, the barred tiger salamander exhibit two phases of development. They start life in an aquatic larval stage with external gills. During this phase they are called "water dogs" and often sold as fish bait. They are sometimes incorrectly referred to as "mudpuppies" which is a different species of completely aquatic salamander. Some adult barred tiger salamanders have been known to be neotenic, meaning they retain their gills into adulthood.
They are primarily nocturnal and spend most of their time underground in burrows.
These amphibians have been known to live for 15 years or more.
The barred tiger salamander is a species of least concern but, as with other salamanders and amphibians, habitat loss, deforestation, acid rain and the introduction of non-native species are threats to their continued success as a species.