The Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, reaching lengths of up to 24 inches. Hellbenders need clean streams with high water quality and silt-free streambeds to find their prey and avoid predators. (Copyright photo courtesy Freshwaters Illustrated/Dave Herasimtschuk)
Hiding beneath a pile of rocks in a clear mountain stream flowing from the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina lurks North America’s largest salamander, the Eastern hellbender. It is also locked in battle between its perilous decline and valiant struggle for survival.
Sediment from runoff, prescription and over-the-counter therapeutic and veterinary drugs, personal care products such as soaps, fragrances and cosmetics, other chemical pollutants, and the physical disturbance of its rocky lairs by unknowing recreationalists are all suspects contributing to the hellbender’s decline. Read more »
The Ensatina salamander (Ensatina eschscholtzii) is a good indicator of forest ecosystem health. (U.S. Forest Service/Hartwell Welsh)
With the Year of the Salamander now in full swing, there’s no wonder why everyone seems to be talking about these little creatures… they are the new canary in the coal mine when it comes to understanding forest health.
Woodland salamanders, small, ground-dwelling or subterranean, and primarily nocturnal creatures, are a common species in North American forests; and researchers from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station say they are reliable indicators of recovery in damaged forest ecosystems. Read more »