While the Ozark hellbender has been protected since 2011, the eastern hellbender is not.
The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for not protecting the eastern hellbender salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) under the Endangered Species Act. The Center initially filed a petition to list the amphibian, which is America's largest, in 2009. The USFWS however has not yet acted on the petition. The USFWS did list the Ozark hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi), one of two subspecies of the large salamander as an Endangered Species in 2011.
Photo by Maryland Zoo.
"Hellbenders reflect the health of their streams, and they’re telling us clearly that we need to do a better job of protecting our rivers,” Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement "Protecting the hellbender and its habitat under the Endangered Species Act will help protect water quality for all of us.”
Hellbender salamanders are flat and their skin is folded and wrinkled. They breathe by absorbing oxygen through their skin, which is covered in mucus that is toxic to predators but not humans. The eastern hellbender grows to more than two feet in length and is found in streams in the eastern United States to Mississippi. They are fully aquatic salamanders and don't leave the water. They develop skin lesions when exposed to highly polluted waters. Nocturnal, the hellbender feeds on crayfish, dead fish, insects and other amphibians. They are prey to fish turtles and snakes. They reach maturity in five to eight years and can live up to about 30 years.