BACKGROUND: Understanding the demographic processes underlying population dynamics is a central theme in ecology. Populations decline if losses from the population (i.e., mortality and emigration) exceed gains (i.e., recruitment and immigration). Amphibians are thought to exhibit little movement even though local populations often fluctuate dramatically and are likely to go exinct if there is no rescue effect through immigration from nearby populations. Terrestrial salamanders are generally portrayed as amphibians with low migratory activity. Our study uses demographic analysis as a key to unravel whether emigration or mortality is the main cause of "losses" from the population. In particular, we use the analysis to challenge the common belief that terrestrial salamanders show low migratory activity. RESULTS: The mark-recapture analysis of adult salamanders showed that monthly survival was high (> 90%) without a seasonal pattern. These estimates, however, translate into rather low rates of local annual survival of only ~40% and suggest that emigration was important. The estimated probability of emigration was 49%. CONCLUSION: Our analysis shows that terrestrial salamanders exhibit more migratory activity than commonly thought. This may be due either because the spatial extent of salamander populations is underestimated or because there is a substantial exchange of individuals between populations. Our current results are in line with several other studies that suggest high migratory activity in amphibians. In particular, many amphibian populations may be characterized by high proportions of transients and/or floaters.