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Got Nature? > Posts > Hellbenders, often called snot otters, decline continues in 16 states
July 12
Hellbenders, often called snot otters, decline continues in 16 states

As hellbenders continue to decline, Dr. Rod Williams and his research team have been sharing awareness of how important it is that these salamanders continue to thrive in the current ecosystem.

Hellbender (AP Photo/Rick Callahan)

Eastern hellbenders are the largest salamander in North America. Adults can reach 29 inches in length, though most individuals are typically 11-24 inches long. Clean water is important for Hellbenders because they obtain most of their oxygen from the water by “breathing” through their skin. When breathing, their fleshy folds expand in surface area, enabling them to absorb more oxygen from the water.

Hellbender populations are declining across their range, from Missouri to New York. This decline, which affects the hellbender population in Indiana's Blue River, is likely caused by human influences such as habitat degradation and destruction. The stream-bottom habitat of hellbenders can be degraded by sediment from eroded banks and fields and destroyed when streams are dammed or dredged. Hellbenders are also captured inadvertently by anglers or purposefully for illegal sale in the pet trade. Finally, emerging diseases may be impacting some populations of hellbenders.

Many states are developing conservation programs to help the hellbender. For more information and to learn more on conservation efforts view Help the Hellbender.

Dr. Rod Williams and his hellbender research team have recently made national news:

Fox News
Huge US salamander is disappearing from Eastern rivers, worrying scientists
July 10, 2014

Trying to save the hellbender, America's largest salamander
July 10, 2014

Rod Williams, associate professor of wildlife science
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University

Diana Evans, extension information coordinator
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University

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