38 Eastern hellbender salamanders have been released by the Bronx Zoo into western New York state streams in order to help the threatened species survive. The amphibians, also known as “ snot otters, devil dogs, mud dogs,and Allegheny Alligators,” are known fort their large flat bodies and heads, blotchy brown slimy skin and beady dorsal eyes. As with most salamanders, they have short legs with four toes on the front legs and five on its back limbs, and a tail “keeled for propulsion.”
While hellbenders have functioning lungs, they also absorb oxygen from the water through capillaries of its side frills.
According to the Zoo, the salamander eggs were first gathered from the Allegheny River by the Department of Environmental Conservation, then hatched at the Buffalo Zoo in 2009, before being brought downstate to be raised at the Bronx facility’s Amphibian Propagation Center. Each salamander was then micro-chipped so their health could be monitored.
Hellbenders can grow to be approximately 2-feet long, and weigh anywhere from 3-1/2-5-1/2 lbs making them the third largest aquatic salamander species in the world. Only the Chinese and Japanese salamanders are bigger. They become sexually mature at about 5-years old, and have been known to live as long as 30 years in captivity.
The species can be found from southern New York to northern Georgia, including sections of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri, North Carolina and South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas, as well as in some parts of Kansas and Oklahoma.