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Partners Work to 'Help the Hellbender'

By Lori Pruitt
Endangered Species Coordinator
Bloomington, Indiana Field Office

Eight young eastern hellbenders were released in Southern Indiana. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Lori Pruitt)

Eight young eastern hellbenders were released in Southern Indiana. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Lori Pruitt)


“Help the Hellbender” is the name given to an effort to conserve the eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), North America’s largest salamander, in Indiana. These giant salamanders can grow to 2 feet long, with flat green or brown bodies that have noticeable wrinkles on the sides. They live up to 30 years, living under flat rocks in rivers and streams across Appalachia, parts of the Midwest and the northern tips of several southern states.

But populations are declining in many portions of the range.  The eastern hellbender is listed as state-endangered in five states, including Indiana, and protected or of special concern in many others.

Lori Pruitt, Endangered Species Coordinator for the Service's Bloomington, Indiana, Field Office, recently joined project partners Purdue University, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and The Nature Conservancy in the first hellbender release in Indiana.

The animals released were originally collected in West Virginia and subsequently moved to a zoo in Texas. Purdue University researchers traveled to Texas and brought back 18 of these juvenile hellbenders.  Researchers reared them at Purdue until they were 4 years old and had reached about 12 inches in length, a size that made them less susceptible to predators.

Eight of these individuals were recently released in southern Indiana, and the others will find new homes in the coming months. Each of the hellbenders carries a radio transmitter to allow scientists to track their movements and help to gather information on their habitats, behaviors and survival. The fact that the hellbenders survived and thrived under the care of the researchers is a testament to the dedication and passion for their work.

The Service is currently conducting a status assessment on the species -- this is the process of reviewing, summarizing and analyzing information to determine if the species should be considered a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. 

Eastern Hellbenders are found in perennial streams, especially those that are fast-flowing, cool and highly oxygenated.  Destruction and degradation of habitat are primary factors in hellbender decline.  In 2011, the Service listed the Ozark hellbender, found in Missouri and Arkansas, as endangered.

To learn more about the Indiana effort to help the hellbender and the recent release, see http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2012/Q4/purdue-part-of-national-group-bent-on-saving-the-hellbender.html

Lori Pruitt, Bloomington Field Office, takes part in the historic release of eastern hellbenders in Southern Indiana. (Courtesy photo by Sarabeth Kleuh, Indiana DNR)

Lori Pruitt, Bloomington Field Office, takes part in the historic release of eastern hellbenders in Southern Indiana. (Courtesy photo by Sarabeth Kleuh, Indiana DNR)

 

-FWS-

“Help the Hellbender” is the name given to an effort to conserve the eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), North America’s largest salamander, in Indiana. These giant salamanders can grow to 2 feet long, with flat green or brown bodies that have noticeable wrinkles on the sides. They live up to 30 years, living under flat rocks in rivers and streams across Appalachia, parts of the Midwest and the northern tips of several southern states.
But populations are declining in many portions of the range.  The eastern hellbender is listed as state-endangered in five states, including Indiana, and protected or of special concern in many others.
Lori Pruitt, Endangered Species Coordinator for the Service's Bloomington, Indiana, Field Office, recently joined project partners Purdue University, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and The Nature Conservancy in the first hellbender release in Indiana.
The animals released were originally collected in West Virginia and subsequently moved to a zoo in Texas. Purdue University researchers traveled to Texas and brought back 18 of these juvenile hellbenders.  Researchers reared them at Purdue until they were 4 years old and had reached about 12 inches in length, a size that made them less susceptible to predators.
Eight of these individuals were recently released in southern Indiana, and the others will find new homes in the coming months. Each of the hellbenders carries a radio transmitter to allow scientists to track their movements and help to gather information on their habitats, behaviors and survival. The fact that the hellbenders survived and thrived under the care of the researchers is a testament to the dedication and passion for their work.
The Service is currently conducting a status assessment on the species -- this is the process of reviewing, summarizing and analyzing information to determine if the species should be considered a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. 
Eastern Hellbenders are found in perennial streams, especially those that are fast-flowing, cool and highly oxygenated.  Destruction and degradation of habitat are primary factors in hellbender decline.  In 2011, the Service listed the Ozark hellbender, found in Missouri and Arkansas, as endangered.
To learn more about the Indiana effort to help the hellbender and the recent release, see http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2012/Q4/purdue-part-of-national-group-bent-on-saving-the-hellbender.html
-FWS-

 

Last updated: December 20, 2012