Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Help the Hellbender
Midwest Region, November 9, 2012
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Lori Pruitt (left), USFWS Endangered Species Coordinator for Indiana, releases an eastern hellbender.
Lori Pruitt (left), USFWS Endangered Species Coordinator for Indiana, releases an eastern hellbender. - Photo Credit: Sarabeth Klueh, Indiana Department of Natural Resources

“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 two feet long and live up to 30 years. Populations are declining in many portions of the range, including Indiana where the species is listed as state-endangered. 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. Lori Pruitt, endangered species coordinator for the Service's Bloomington, Indiana, field office, recently joined project partners, including Purdue University, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and The Nature Conservancy, in the first-ever 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 a size that made them less susceptible to predators. The fact that the hellbenders survived and thrived under the care of the researchers is a testament to their dedication and their passion for their work. 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 us gather information on their habitats, behaviors and survival. 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

Contact Info: Lori Pruitt, (812) 334-4261 , lori_pruitt@fws.gov
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