Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis)
There are a total of eight hellbenders at the Zoo. They were hatched in 2009 from wild-caught eggs collected from a western New York stream. Sexually mature adult hellbenders range in size from 12 to 29 inches and vary in color from grayish to olive brown and occasionally entirely black. Individuals usually sport dark mottling over the back and upper sides. The belly is lighter and sparsely spotted if at all. The loose-fitting skin along a hellbender's sides absorbs supplemental oxygen through the skin.
Status in the wild
Hellbenders are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Agricultural practices, logging, mining, road construction and maintenance and other activities can cause extensive sedimentation that covers the loose rock and gravel important for nest sites as well as for shelter and food.
Southwestern and south central New York, west to Illinois and south to the northern parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, in rocky, clear creeks and rivers that are fast flowing, usually in areas where there are large rocks for shelter. Hellbenders usually avoid water warmer than 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Primarily crayfish, but will also eat insects and other invertebrates as well as minnows.
- Hellbenders are New York State's largest aquatic salamander.
- Hellbenders are nocturnal, meaning they hunt at night, and spend their daylight hours hidden beneath rocks and logs at the bottoms of streams.
- Hellbenders have lived 29 years in captivity and analysis suggests they can live up to 30 years in the wild.