The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Celebrating Forty Years of the Endangered Species Act: Ozark Hellbender

Ozark hellbender. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

Ozark hellbender.
Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

Scientific Name:
   Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi

Year Listed on the Endangered Species List:  2011

Endangered Species Listing Status:  Endangered

Conservation Efforts and Partners:

In 2011, the Saint Louis Zoo and the Missouri Department of Conservation announced that Ozark hellbenders had been bred in captivity and had resulted in 165 baby hellbenders.  This was the first time this had happened anywhere in the world.  In November 2012, eight female Ozark hellbenders had laid a total of 2,809 fertile eggs in the Zoo’s artificial nest boxes in simulated streams. By late November, the center had more than 1,000 larvae. Eventually, captive bred hellbenders will be used to supplement the wild population of this very important indicator species.

The Saint Louis Zoo partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Missouri University of Science and Technology, the Southwest Missouri State University and the University of Arkansas.

Where Ozark Hellbenders Live:  

Rivers and streams in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri.

Hellbender range map courtesy of National Park Service.

Hellbender range map courtesy of National Park Service.

What Ozark Hellbenders Eat:

Ninety percent of their diet is crayfish but they also eat small fish and insects.  Fish eggs have never been found in the stomach of a hellbender, indicating they are of no harm to game fish populations.

How Long Ozark Hellbenders Live:
  25 – 30 years

How We Can All Help Ozark Hellbenders:

If you catch a hellbender while fishing, simply cut the line near the head and release it back into the river. The hook will rust away in a matter of weeks.

Hellbenders depend on large flat rocks for shelter so avoid disrupting creek beds by leaving rocks in place.

Help keep local rivers and streams clean by leaving no litter behind and by avoiding use of pesticides, which can turn up in storm water runoff. Avoid hosing spills, dirt, and debris down storm drains.  Join a local Stream Team, a volunteer organization that brings people together to clean, care for, and monitor our rivers for pollution.

This informative video gives an overview of the natural history of both species of hellbenders and the conservation efforts spearheaded by the Saint Louis Zoo and its partners.

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This entry was posted on February 7, 2014 by in Amphibians, Endangered Species, Wildlife.
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