We have written about the Eastern Hellbender salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) in this blog multiple times. It is a unique species and plays an important role in the aquatic ecosystem in which it inhabits. Unfortunately, the species has been declining throughout much of its range over the past several decades and can no longer be found in many of the rivers and streams where it used to be common. In Indiana, the Eastern Hellbender can only be found in the Blue River. However, this population is also declining and without intervention will likely disappear within the next 20 years.
To help prevent this, Purdue University’s “Help the Hellbender” has teamed with Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden (MPZ) to attempt to captive breed the Eastern Hellbender. Purdue University biologists have been capturing wild Eastern Hellbenders from the Blue River and transporting them to MPZ. MPZ has built an indoor stream designed to mimic the conditions in the Blue River. They have followed the advice of members of the highly successful Ozark Hellbender subspecies (C. a. bishopi) breeding program at St. Louis Zoo.
If successful, this captive population will provide a long-term, easily accessible source of young Hellbenders for eventual release. This will allow us to continue to repopulate the Blue River while expanding our release efforts to include other southern Indiana rivers with suitable habitat. The breeding program also will reduce the need to spend countless hours searching the river in the hopes of finding increasingly rare Hellbender nests. Through these efforts we will hopefully be able to reestablish self-sustaining populations of Hellbenders throughout southern Indiana and help prevent the extinction of a truly magnificent animal.
For more ways you can help, please visit HelptheHellbender.org.
Mesker Park Zoo: Helping the Hellbender , Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources, YouTube
Help the Hellbender, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources
Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden
Hellbender Information, St. Louis Zoo
Purdue Partners with Indiana Zoos for Hellbender Conservation, Purdue Newsroom
I found this in my barn. Is it a Hellbender?, Purdue Got Nature?, Forestry and Natural Resources
Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources