Hellbenders Bad name, Good Sign
They’ve been called Snot Otters, Devil Dogs and Grampuses. The name that’s stuck is Hellbender perhaps because early settlers thought they were creatures from Hell, bent on returning. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Whatever you call them, Hellbenders are one of the world’s largest salamanders, sometimes reaching up to two feet in length and weighing up to five pounds.
Hopkins: Hellbenders have a range from Missouri into Virginia. They extend down into North Georgia and .. up into New York. Unfortunately, that range has been shrinking as their populations continue to decline.
Bill Hopkins is a wildlife ecotoxicologist. He says the Eastern Hellbender is being considered as a candidate for listing as a threatened species.
Hopkins: They’re a misunderstood species. A lot of fishermen in rural areas actually kill these animals, and one of the reasons they do so is they think that it actually eats a lot of the fish that they’re out there trying to catch, and that’s simply not true. Hellbenders about 90 percent of their diet is comprised of crayfish.
And so, when you find a stream that harbors a large number of Hellbenders, it’s a good sign. It tells us something about the conditions in that stream that it’s well-oxygenated, that there’s not too much silt, that there aren’t too many pollutants, and it’s a resource that we should be proud of that we should cherish. Over in Japan, the cousin of this, which is the Japanese giant salamander, is actually considered a national treasure. It’s an animal that they take great, great pride in, and I personally would love to see here in the United States an animal like this become a symbol a symbol for clean water, a symbol for local communities to sort of rally behind, in terms of an animal that we all wanna work to protect .
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