Archived Outdoors

Learn about hellbenders

The hellbender is one of only three giant salamanders found in the world. Lori Williams photo The hellbender is one of only three giant salamanders found in the world. Lori Williams photo

The series “Where We Live: History, Nature, and Culture” will present a program on the Hellbender, a giant salamander found in our local streams. 

The hellbender is one of only three giant salamanders found in the world. North Carolina is home to more than 65 species of salamanders, with 50 species in our mountain region alone. The Eastern hellbender (Crypto-branchus a. alleganiensis) is the largest salamanders found in North America. 

Hellbenders are 16-17 inches long on average, but they can grow to be more than 2 feet long and weigh more than 2 pounds. Once common throughout the mid-eastern United States, this giant salamander has disappeared from many streams because of declining water quality, over-collecting and persecution. 

Local names for hellbenders include water dog, mud puppy, devil dog, snot otter, grampus and Alleghany alligator. Although they are large and slimy, hellbenders are harmless and not poisonous, toxic, or venomous, contrary to popular belief. 

Lori Williams, Wildlife Diversity biologist with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, will be the speaker. She is conducting a long-term inventory and monitoring project on hellbenders. 

The program will be held at the Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center at 51 Cowee School Drive in Franklin, beginning at 6:30 p.m. July 18.

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