October 15, 2014
- as seen by -Sarah Grace Parker
The Eastern hellbender is the largest species of salamander in North America. Adults can grow to over two feet in length and weigh over five pounds! These distinctive salamanders go by many names including “snot otter” and “old lasagna sides.” They live under rocks in clean, fast-flowing streams where they feed primarily on crayfish. They have many unique adaptations including special skin folds along their sides to help them absorb oxygen from the cold water. If threatened, they can exude copious amounts of toxic slime to deter predators.
Hellbenders are very specialized animals, and they are quite sensitive to the pollution and siltation of the streams in which they live. The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo, in cooperation with the New York State DEC, is participating in the Eastern Hellbender Recovery Project to battle the decline of this species throughout its range. We are happy to be headstarting a number of hellbender eggs in a special, biosecure facility at the zoo. When the young are large enough to avoid predation, they will be released back into the wild!
EDITOR’S NOTE: For October, we at Wild View are getting in the spirit of Halloween. We’re celebrating nature that often elicits alarm. The animals that creep and crawl. The full moons that brighten night skies. The bats, the vultures, the snakes. Swallow your anxiety and join us. Fear not, it’s actually quite amazing.