Among the forty-two species of salamanders found in the
woods, streams and rivers of North Carolina, the hellbender
may be the strangest. Some people say the hellbender is the
most grotesque-looking salamander in North America.
Hellbenders are Federally listed as a “species of concern” and may be a candidate for listing as an endangered species. Human impacts like acid mine drainage, dam construction, siltation from farms, forestry, and housing development have all contributed to their decline. With that in mind, researchers from across North Carolina are working to develop our knowledge of this species.
Hellbender research has shown steep declines—some as high as 77 percent—among a few hellbender populations. The Appalachian population in the southeastern United States in particular has received little scientific attention. This may be because many researchers think North Carolina’s hellbender population is stable. Unfortunately, there is not much in the way of scientific evidence for this belief. In fact, before our study began in 2007, no one had surveyed North Carolina’s hellbender populations.