Eastern Hellbender

Scientific Name: Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis

US Range: southern New York to northern Georgia

Size: 11–29 inches (total length)

Conservation Status: state-listed as a species of concern in every state where it occurs; not federally listed

Eastern Hellbender Facts

These awesomely odd-looking salamanders are quite large, up to 29 inches long and five pounds. They spend most of their lives in fast-moving, clear streams and are very well adapted to these dynamic environments. Their flattened bodies, short legs, long paddle-like tail, and tiny eyes help them live in their aquatic habitats.

© Kat Diersen

While in the water, they breathe entirely through their wrinkly skin, and those folds help give them more surface area to take up oxygen.

Hellbenders take shelter under rocks, which is how they spend most of their time. Therefore, they need an abundance of large flat rocks in the streams they inhabit.

The eastern hellbender is sensitive to siltation of the streams they inhabit caused by erosion and other water quality issues, meaning that human development and agricultural practices can have a big impact on this species.

Eastern hellbender populations are estimated to have declined more than 70% in the last 50 years.

ARC’s Work for Eastern Hellbenders

In many cases, development has caused siltation in the waters they inhabit, choking the spaces between rocks and increasing the temperature of the water. Hence, there is less oxygen for the salamanders to breathe. We work with public and private lands to restore watersheds by fencing cattle out of hellbender habitat and to install the large slabs of rock they need for breeding and nesting.

Can You Help?

Donate to ARC to invest in our work for often-overlooked species, like eastern hellbenders.