The Ozark hellbender is a large, aquatic salamander that occurs in cool, clear Ozark streams in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Cool and clear water is important because hellbenders breathe entirely through their skin, which contains numerous folds to increase oxygen absorption. Adult Ozark hellbenders spend most of their life under large, flat rocks that shelter them; whereas larval and juvenile hellbenders hide beneath large rocks and under small stones in gravel beds. Ozark hellbenders are one of two subspecies of hellbenders, with the eastern hellbender being the other subspecies.
In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Ozark Hellbender as endangered throughout its range. Though the species’ current range is largely the same as its historical range, abundance, or the number of individuals, in each of these rivers had dropped more than 70% since the 1970s. However, hundreds of young are being released into the wild each year in an attempt to reverse the population declines.
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