Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ALAPARC Hellbender Initiative

In addition to the official initiative site here, Readers will now be able to hear of ALAPARC's Hellbender Initiative via this blog.

In many states where hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) were once common, drastic declines have occurred, and this salamander is now one of the most imperiled amphibians in North America. Museum collections indicate hellbenders once occurred in many drainages in northern Alabama, however, the last verified record of a living hellbender in this state was in 1990 (see below).

The purpose of this initiative is to generate voluntary interest from experienced herpetologists in Alabama to determine the current range and status of Alabama hellbenders. Early thoughts on how this could easily and cheaply be accomplished are:

1. A request for possible unverified or unpublished reports of hellbenders to develop a database of all known collection records; this request will be channeled through an existing hellbender information-sharing website.

2. An adopt-a-stream program to pool effort among interested volunteers; each individual will devote at least four sampling occasions per year for at least one historic hellbender collection site.

3. A bioblitz competition in which individuals with experience trapping or collecting hellbenders—as well as other interested participants—will be encouraged to document living hellbenders on a competitive basis.

4. Acquisition of funds (grants or donations) to purchase materials for the construction of traps, which can be utilized for determining presence/absence of hellbenders with minimal effort, and could be incorporated into the adopt-a-stream program.

5. Acquisition of funds (grants or donations) to distribute educational materials near bridge crossings and other fishing spots in northern Alabama within the potential range of hellbenders to solicit information and cooperation among locals.

Is this the last Alabama hellbender?

To the left is a photo of the last hellbender found in Alabama in March of 1990.

Have you seen a hellbender recently?

If you've seen a hellbender or caught one while fishing, please report it!

Go to to report hellbender occurrence.

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