Watch: North America's Largest Amphibian In Lycoming County
Few things can leave you as speechless as seeing an eastern hellbender salamander in the wild.
Thanks to Jordan Allen and other members of the Pennsylvania Amphibians and Reptile Survey (PARS), we all get to have a small glimpse.
"Whenever I spot a hellbender, I’m just in complete awe. Growing up I would look at illustrations of them in field guides and imagine seeing one in the wild, but my imagination didn’t really compare to the real thing" says Allen, Tioga County coordinator for PARS.
Elusive and strangely endearing, the eastern hellbender salamander is found in rivers and streams throughout Pennsylvania and is the largest salamander in North America, growing up to two feet in length.
"When you spot a hellbender, you get this feeling that you’re looking at something extremely old. They don’t really pay any attention to humans. They just slowly crawl to the next boulder, like they’ve been doing for millions of years."
While the creature pictured is from Lycoming County in Pennsylvania, the Hellbender receives special protection as a Species of Special Concern within Pennsylvania, so the specific location data is kept private to protect them.
So what are your odds of seeing a wild hellbender?
"Your odds go up the more time you spend in the river. Fishermen definitely have better odds than other people, especially in high-quality streams. Some fishermen go their entire lives without seeing one, and some people reel them in by accident. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Petokas at Lycoming College, as well as efforts to reduce acid mine drainage, hellbenders may eventually become a common sight (or at least as common as an animal that lives under rocks and has extreme camouflage can be)."
If you are lucky enough to see one, Allen and PARS would like your help;
"If anyone sees a hellbender in the wild here in PA, they should submit the photo and location data to paherpsurvey.org. It only takes a couple of minutes and it helps us to understand their range a little better, as well as to protect them from development and habitat destruction.
If you have any questions about submitting your findings, Jordan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and would be happy to help submit any records.