When I was a kid growing up on a farm in southern Manitoba my brothers and I would often find tiger salamanders while digging in the garden, under boards and on some occasions in the basement of the farm house. The farm house had a sump hole with a sump pump to remove ground water. I suspect the salamanders somehow found there way 7 feet down and came up under the floor and into the basement via the sump hole.
My daughter Karlene 10 was fascinated by these stories so this summer we decided to visit the old farm now a summer home for my Mother. Karlene spent considerable time exploring the fields and bush finding frogs, snakes and other creatures but the elusive tiger salamanders were no where to be found. On the last day of our visit one of her cousins stopped by and ask Karlene if she had seen the salamanders in Grandma's basement. I was totally surprised, it had been more than 30 years since I had been down that basement and I had not considered looking there. The kids ran down and within minutes came running out with at least a dozen Tigers, we took photo's and let them go where they were found near the sump hole.
It was one of those magical moments, totally unexpected and wonderful to see my daughter experience what I had experienced when I was her age. The tigers are back where we found them and its amazing to think how they must have found a way to enter via the sump hole tunneling 7 feet down and 4 feet across.
We have since learned that tigers are one of the largest land-dwelling salamanders in the world. They are members of the mole salamader species and spend much of there time underground occasionally coming to the surface after heavy rains. Their diet consists of beetles, earthworms, snails, frogs and even small mice which may in part account for the seemingly mouse free farm house.