Salamanders Proposed to Endangered Species List
SULLIVAN - The largest salamanders in North America can be found right here in Missouri, but they might not be around for much longer. They are called Hellbenders. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposed putting the Ozark Hellbender on the endangered species list.
But, the Ozark Hellbender isn't the only one in trouble. The Eastern Hellbender is also disappearing at a rapid rate. The Eastern Hellbender can be found closer to our viewing area in the Meramec River. Charlie Scott, the Field Supervisor for the Missouri Ecological Services Field Office said the Eastern Hellbender is being watched to see if it too should be on the endangered species list.
"It's declining pretty much across its range," Scott said.
Scott said the threats to both species are, "water quality, physical habitat, and there's a fungus. But, there's not one thing you can pinpoint. It's a combination of those things."
There are only about 500 Ozark Hellbenders left in the water. If predictions are right, they could be extinct in 20 years.
"For the Ozark Hellbender, it's an aging population and they are not really reproducing any young," said Scott. "The endangered species act said an endangered species is a species that faces extinction."
The Hellbenders can get up to about 2 feet long, but that's nothing compared to their ancestors. They are related to salamanders from China and Japan that can grow up to 3 to 4 feet long.
The Hellbenders are both dark in color and have flat heads to hide under rocks, although the Ozark Hellbender does have a darker tone.
"We like to say they are so ugly, they're cute," said Scott.
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