Distribuition and Description:

It can be found in rocky, clear creeks and rivers, usually where there are large rocks for shelter. It usually avoids water warmer than 20°C. Males prepare nests and attend eggs beneath large flat rocks or submerged logs. The total adult population size is unknown, but the population is in overall decline (although there are secure populations in many areas). The hellbender has a few characteristics that make it distinguishable from other native salamanders, including a gigantic, dorsoventrally flattened body with thick folds travelling down the sides, a single open gill slit on each side, and hind feet with five toes each. Easily distinguished from most other endemic salamander species simply by their size, hellbenders average up to 60 cm or about 2 ft in length; the only species requiring further distinction (due to an overlap in distribution and size range) is the common mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus). This demarcation can be made by noting the presence of external gills in the mudpuppy, which are lacking in the hellbender, as well as the presence of four toes on each hind foot of the mudpuppy (in contrast with the hellbender’s five). Furthermore, the average size of C. a. alleganiensis has been reported to be 45–60 cm (with some reported as reaching up to 74 cm or 30 in), while N. m. maculosus has a reported average size of 28–40 cm in length, which means that hellbender adults will still generally be notably larger than even the biggest mudpuppies.Once a hellbender finds a favorable location, it generally does not stray too far from it—except occasionally for breeding and hunting—and will protect it from other hellbenders both in and out of the breeding season. While the range of two hellbenders may overlap, they are noted as rarely being present in the overlapping area when the other salamander is in the area. The species is at least somewhat nocturnal, with peak activity being reported by one source as occurring around "two hours after dark" and again at dawn (although the dawn peak was recorded in the lab and could be misleading as a result). Nocturnal activity has been found to be most prevalent in early summer, perhaps coinciding with highest water depths.


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