More than 1,000 Hellbenders Hatched This Fall At St. Louis Zoo"Both (Ozark and eastern hellbenders) are listed as state endangered in Missouri, and the Ozark hellbender also is federally endangered by the USFWS. Screengrab via St. Louis Zoo Facebook page.

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More than 1,000 Hellbenders Hatched This Fall At St. Louis Zoo

Hellbenders, also known as snot otters, are the largest amphibians in North America.

Of the 1,333 hatchlings, 583 came from eggs brought to the facility by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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The St. Louis Zoo announced this week that it has successfully hatched 1,333 Ozark (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) and Eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus a. alleganiensis) salamanders at its zoo and 750 second generation Ozark hellbenders at the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium.

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Of the 1,333 hatchlings, 583 came from eggs brought to the facility by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“Both (Ozark and eastern hellbenders) are listed as state endangered in Missouri, and the Ozark hellbender also is federally endangered by the USFWS,” the zoo wrote on its Facebook page. “Hellbender populations in Missouri have declined more than 70 percent over the past 40 years. A population assessment indicated that all hellbender populations have a high risk of extinction (above 96 percent) over the next 75 years, unless populations are bolstered. Based upon these results, zoo propagation and head-starting were deemed essential to the long-term recovery of hellbenders in Missouri.”


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The St. Louis Zoo was the first institution to captive breed the hellbenders. In 2011, the St. Louis Zoo’s Ron Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation, in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Conservation successfully hatched more than 62 offspring.

In July 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was sued for not listing the Eastern hellbender salamander as an endangered species.

Hellbender Salamander Information

Hellbender salamanders, also known as snot otters 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. 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. The Ozark hellbender salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) was listed as an endangered species by the USFWS in 2011. It is a subspecies of the Eastern hellbender salamander.

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