Hellbender Salamanders Found In Creek Near East Palestine Train DerailmentHellbenders are fully aquatic salamanders and don't leave the water. They develop skin lesions when exposed to highly polluted waters. Photo via Office of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

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Hellbender Salamanders Found In Creek Near East Palestine Train Derailment

The salamanders are also known as snot otters in certain locales of the United States.

The findings of these two salamanders was called a "positive discovery" by the state as Hellbender salamanders can only thrive in cool, clean water.

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Two healthy hellbender salamanders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), one of the largest salamander species in the world, were found thriving in North Fork Little Beaver Creek, a water way that is connected to East Palestine through the Sulphur Run and Leslie Run water ways that merge with the north fork of Little Beaver Creek.

The announcement was made March 17 in a news release put out by the office of Gov. Mike DeWine. “The hellbender is Ohio’s largest amphibian, and some may live more than 60 years,” the news release stated. “One hellbender found this week was estimated to be 7 years old, and the other was a juvenile. Both were released back into North Fork Little Beaver Creek.”

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The salamanders, one which was a juvenile and the other estimated to be about seven years old, were found during a survey by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio EPA and The Ohio State University. The findings of these two salamanders was called a “positive discovery” by the state.


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North Fork Southern Train Derailment Information

A Norfolk Southern train derailed near the Ohio town of East Palestine on February 3, 2023. The train was pulling 150 rail cars, 210 of which carried hazardous materials, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Of the three dozen railroad cars that derailed, 11 were carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, which is a cancer causing substance. Other toxic chemicals that were being carried by the train included ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene. The crash is still under investigation. Preliminary reports suggest a faulty wheel bearing may have contributed to the derailment.

hellbender salamander

Eastern hellbender salamander. Photo by Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock

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Hellbender Salamander Information

Hellbender salamanders can only thrive in cool, clean water. Hellbender salamanders are listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their bodies are fairly 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. Eastern hellbenders grow 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.