The eastern hellbender, North America’s largest salamander, is disappearing, and scientists are not sure why.
Due to the continual decrease in population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been considering adding the eastern hellbender salamander to the endangered species list. The two-foot long amphibian is the largest salamander in North America, and is the third largest salamander in the world.
The eastern hellbenders are disappearing from the sixteen U.S. states they inhabit at alarming rates. Although unsure, scientists believe it could relate to the streams and rivers the animals live in. Construction projects, such as dams, can interfere with the speeds of the rivers, making them undesirable for the salamanders. Pollution and fungus could also be impacting the water and creating unsafe places for the amphibians to live in.
“These are animals that live up to 30 years in the wild, so if you have populations declining, that alerts us that there could be a problem with the water quality,” said Rod Williams, a Purdue University associate professor of herpetology who has been tracking Indiana’s hellbenders for almost a decade.
Already, the Ozark hellbenders, a close relative of the eastern hellbenders, have been declared endangered. They were placed on the list after their population decreased by a whopping 75 percent in 2011.
Researchers are encouraging people to help out the hellbender salamanders by planting trees and grasses along the edges of rivers to improve water quality. Hopefully, that will clean up the water and decrease the number of salamander deaths.