The eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in North America. This devilishly-named creature is also known as the “snot otter” because it is rather slimy.
Eastern hellbenders can grow up to two feet long and have flat bodies, slimy skin, beady eyes, and a long mouth. They also have four short legs, with four toes on their front legs and five toes on their back legs. These slitherers breathe through the wrinkles of their skin.
Eastern hellbenders live under rocks in streams along the Appalachian mountain range from New York to Missouri. Recently, their population has declined. One theory for this decline is that soil and rocks from farms, factories, and other developments fill in the crevices between rocks, removing hellbender larvae from their original places. The refugee hellbenders cannot survive.
Some organizations are working to restore the hellbender population. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium recently saved 225 hellbender eggs and raised them to young adulthood, for example. This month they will be released into the water, with the hope that they’ll thrive.
[Source: New York Times]