NC Habitat Increased for Endangered North American Salamander
Wednesday, May 11, 2022
Our original version incorrectly stated the hellbender is endangered federally. It is "endangered" or listed as a "species of special concern" in multiple states. The Ozark Hellbender, a subspecies, is listed as federally endangered. The story has been corrected to reflect this.
Protecting North Carolina's rivers and streams is good for residents, wildlife and even salamanders.
Recent work along Hog Lot Creek and Bates Branch repaired damage and increased habitat for the hellbender, North America's largest salamander species. The project was made possible by Resource Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring streams, rivers and wetlands.
Alan Walker, project manager for the Resource Institute, said the team had a specific goal in mind.
"It's a hellbender initiative," Walker explained. "What we've tried to do is, in addition to the natural channel design and working to stabilize the banks and restore the natural channel through this reach, was to put in some specific habitat structures for the hellbenders."
The project team restored 3,000 feet of severely eroded stream areas, including the addition of large, flat rocks -- elevated from the bottom -- to create a big enough cavity for hellbenders to find protection, lay eggs and make a home. Resource Institute is working to identify additional sites for restoration for the species, which is "endangered" or listed as a "species of special concern" in multiple states.
Morgan Harris, private lands biologist in the Conservation Management Institute at Virginia Tech, pointed out although the project is designed to make a home for a struggling species, the general principle is repairing damage caused by humans.
"The main thing that a lot of these projects do is reduce sedimentation going into the creek, when stream banks are eroding," Harris emphasized. "And the most important thing to make sure that erosion stays under control is to make sure that we keep trees and shrubs intact on the creek banks."
Harris added North Carolina is home to one of the best populations remaining of hellbenders, which can grow to as long as two and a half feet in length.
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