HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – Biologists with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Purdue University recently documented a very young hellbender salamander, a gilled larva, in the Blue River while conducting routine surveys in south-central Indiana.

Officials say this discovery is significant because over the past three to four decades, only adult hellbenders have been documented in the Blue River. DNR says the presence of a young salamander suggests that conservation efforts and rearing programs are accomplishing their goals for the recovery of this endangered species.

DNR says the hellbender is a large, fully aquatic salamander. A newsletter says hellbenders do not reach sexual maturity until they are 7-8 years old and require specific habitats to thrive and reproduce. Officials say their decline statewide has been documented as far back as the early-to-mid 1900s as a result of habitat loss and poor water quality. DNR says hellbenders play an important role in aquatic ecosystems and are indicators of clean water.

“Finding hellbender larvae is a huge benchmark of the program’s success,” said DNR’s Nate Engbrecht, the state herpetologist. “It tells us that there has been successful breeding, hatching, and recruitment in the wild. It’s a wonderful sign that captive-reared and released hellbenders are doing what we want them to do at this site.”

DNR says in the event anglers accidentally hook a hellbender, they are reminded to cut the line and let the salamander go unharmed.

(Courtesy: Indiana DNR)