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Endangered Species Program
Conserving and restoring threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems
(Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis)
Status: Missouri Distinct Population Segment (DPS) Proposed as Endangered
There are two subspecies of hellbender: eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) and Ozark hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi). The Ozark hellbender was listed as endangered in 2006.
Eastern hellbenders are found across 15 states: northeastern Mississippi, northern Alabama, northern Georgia, Tennessee, western North Carolina, western Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, eastern Illinois, southern Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, western Maryland, and southern New York, with distinct populations occurring in east-central Missouri.
The Service is proposing to list the Missouri Distinct Population Segment of the eastern hellbender as endangered.
What is a hellbender?
Hellbenders are the largest salamander in North America, growing up to two feet long. Although they are amphibians, they spend their entire life in water.
Hellbenders have a flattened body that enables them to move in fast flowing waters. They also have a large, keeled tail, tiny eyes and numerous fleshy folds along the sides of their bodies that provide surface area for respiration. Hellbenders live in perennial streams and rivers of the eastern and central United States where they spend much of their time lying motionless under large, flat rocks.
Male hellbenders are caretakers for the eggs and young. A male will find a large rock and burrow a space under it for egg laying. He then waits to entice a female to his space. If successful, a female enters the burrow and he will not let her leave until she lays eggs that he fertilizes. The male then maintains and guards the nest until the eggs hatch. There are some indications that even after hatching, males will stay for a time to protect and tend the young hatchlings.
Proposal to List Missouri DPS as Endangered
In response to a petition to list under the Endangered Species Act, the Service evaluated the status of the eastern hellbender rangewide. We determined that the eastern hellbender subspecies does not warrant listing as endangered or threatened because multiple healthy populations over a broad range are predicted to persist over the next 25 years.
However, none of the five populations in Missouri is considered healthy; four are declining and one is functionally extirpated. Most of these populations are predicted to continue declining over the next 25 years. The low numbers and declining condition of populations within the Missouri distinct population segment have reduced its ability to withstand normal environmental variation, periodic disturbances, ongoing threats and potential catastrophic events. It is the Service’s determination that the Missouri distinct population segment of the eastern hellbender is currently in danger of extinction.
The Service is proposing to list the Missouri Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the eastern hellbender as endangered. A 60-day public comment period is open until June 3, 2019.
How to Comment on Proposal
You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
(2) Submit hard copies by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:
The Service will accept and consider comments and information that is received or are postmarked on or before June 3, 2019. The agency must receive comments submitted electronically using the federal eRulemaking Portal by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date.
Please send your comments only by the methods described above. Verbal comments left on phone voicemail or comments sent to other postal or email addresses will not be accepted. The Service will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that the Service will post any personal information you provide.
Last updated: April 15, 2019