Endangered salamander on view at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center
A young Eastern Hellbender is now on display for children and families to discover and watch grow at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.
The Eastern Hellbender, Ohio’s largest amphibian and North America’s largest salamander, is currently listed as an endangered species. Hellbenders are completely aquatic and spend their lives under large rocks in clean streams where they feed on crawfish and other aquatic organisms. Pollutants and runoff have caused increased sedimentation in breeding areas, resulting in poor water quality and low survival rates in young hellbenders. In fact, surveys over the past decade in Ohio have indicated over an 80 percent decline in the species.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has partnered with several organizations to raise awareness about hellbenders and their habitats as part of their conservation plan to reverse the species’ precipitous decline. Earlier this year, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources granted Lake Erie Nature & Science Center permission to display an Eastern Hellbender to the public.
The Bay Village Foundation kindly supported the modification of an exhibit tank to provide an appropriate habitat for the new hellbender, which the Ohio Department of Natural Resources transferred to Lake Erie Nature & Science Center in late August. The new exhibit highlights the state of Ohio’s efforts to protect the species and educates the public about the importance of water quality in relation to native wildlife. A fun learning opportunity is also created through the new exhibit, as children and families will witness the young hellbender grow up to 29 inches in length.
“Eastern Hellbenders are fascinating animals,” said Amy LeMonds, director of wildlife at the Center. “Due to the secretive aquatic nature of hellbenders, it is unlikely for people to observe them in the wild. Our new exhibit at the Center will give children and families the opportunity to see a hellbender up close and will hopefully spark their interest in learning how we can take action to preserve biodiversity.”
Lake Erie Nature & Science Center provides free admission seven days a week to its indoor and outdoor exhibits.
Morgan Paskert is on staff at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.