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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ozark Hellbender

Where is it?
 Click here to locate on Google maps
( It's habitat is limited to a small portion along the border of Missouri and Arkansas, along the eastern edge of the Ozarks region. Below is a picture of what to look for....good luck! )







The Rest Of The Story.....
  If you're like me the first question that comes to mind is, "how did it get that crazy name?". Well, it seems that finding the meaning of that name is about as easy as finding an actual Ozark Hellbender in the wild. Here are a few ideas given by Missouri's Department of Conservation....

The name 'hellbender' probably comes from the 

animal’s odd look. Perhaps it was named by settlers

 who thought "it was a creature from hell where it’s 

bent on returning". Another rendition says the 

undulating skin of a hellbender reminded observers of 

'horrible tortures of the infernal regions'. In reality, it’s 

a harmless aquatic salamander


On October 5, 2011, the Ozark Hellbender was designated as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It's hard to say exactly how many are left in the wild, but in recent years the numbers have plummeted due mainly to water pollution. These salamanders live their entire lives in the water and are extremely sensitive to changes in the environment. They can grow up to 2 feet long and feed mainly on crayfish. That's pretty big for a salamander but it's nothing compared to their Chinese cousins who can grow up to 5 feet long and weigh in around 50 lbs! 
  Should you come across an Ozark Hellbender in the wild, although you may be grossed out at first, consider yourself lucky to have seen one. These creatures are unique and should be left unharmed. In recent years the St. Louis Zoo has taken up the cause to help bring back the Ozark Hellbender. On November 30, 2011 the zoo announced that, with the help of the Missouri Department of Conservation, it had the world's first captive breed Ozark Hellbenders. The project resulted in 63 baby Hellbenders. Now the Shepherd of the Hills fish hatchery in Branson Missouri has taken up the fight as well. This hatchery is now involved with incubating, hatching, and raising Ozark Hellbenders. The eventual goal of both projects is to release these creatures back into the wild. So, seeing one of these in the wild, while rare, could happen and after the initial..."eeww, what's that?" reaction hopefully you'll walk away realizing that you've just found a rare treasure of the Ozarks. Oh, and don't call them 'snot otters' ...they don't like that name! 


Learn more and explore!!!

Raising Baby Hellbenders at the St. Louis Zoo video
http://youtu.be/qSgTXAn-Fq4

Missouri Department of Conservation info on Hellbenders
http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/hellbender

Video clips of Ozark Hellbender's giant Chinese cousin
http://www.arkive.org/chinese-giant-salamander/andrias-davidianus/video-00.html



Better yet, become an 'Ozarkologist' and learn more about Hellbenders for yourself. Feel free to post your comments and experiences!