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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Endangered Species program is conserving and restoring threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems.




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The Midwest Region includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Find a location near you.


The Midwest Region includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.
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Eastern Hellbender

(Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis)


Status: Missouri Distinct Population Segment (DPS) 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's final rule to list the Missouri Distinct Population Segment of the eastern hellbender as endangered can be found in the March 9, 2021 Federal Register.


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.


Missouri DPS Listed 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. The Service determined that the Missouri distinct population segment of the eastern hellbender is currently in danger of extinction, and we proposed to list as endangered in 2019 with a 60-day comment period. Our final rule listing the Missouri DPS of the eastern hellbender is based on the best available scientific information.


Final Rule News Release


Final Rule FAQs Adobe PDF Icon


Final Rule to List as Endangered



Proposed Rule to List as Endangered Adobe PDF Icon


Proposed Rule News Release


Questions and Answers


Eastern Hellbender Species Status Assessment Adobe PDF Icon


Eastern Hellbender Images



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