Jul 19, 2019 | Updated: 08:51 AM EDT

Eastern Hellbender Became the Official Amphibian for Pennsylvania

Apr 19, 2019 11:13 AM EDT

Hellbender Salamander
(Photo : AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) FILE - In this March 23, 2012, file photo, Ned S. Gilmore, collections manager of vertebrate zoology, shows a hellbender salamander in the collection at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania has just voted for the Eastern Hellbender to become an official amphibian. The house voted 191-6 on Tuesday granting honor to the salamander to an amphibian status. It is a nocturnal animal that is not easy to see and it also is known by other names; lasagna lizard, snot otter, or the mud devil.

The animal that can grow to a maximum length of approximately half a meter is facing an unprecedented decline in numbers in its native range across the United States of America. Even though the animal got an official recognition, it was not smooth for it to achieve the status it got. It faced a stiff challenge yet from another amphibian known as the Wehrle's salamander.

The bill that saw the amphibian get the recognition by the house was introduced Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming. The houseman said that Hellbender numbers were declining. "Not many people have actually seen the Hellbenders," said Everett after the vote. He went on to say that the amphibians only live in very clean streams and stay under rocks.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Hellbenders are the largest North American amphibian. Its shuddering appearance has earned the animal a host of names including; ground puppy, devil dog, and Allegheny alligator.

It is the members of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation student's leadership that commenced the campaign to have the Hellbender made the State's official amphibian. Their efforts got a short in the arm by Lycoming College's Clean Water Institute. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Hellbenders used to be plentiful as recently as the 1990s. However, their numbers have since gone down in the Eastern States as a result of pollution and sedimentation said, researchers.

The range of the animals usually covers the Appalachian Mountains, from the south of New York to the north of Georgia. The other factors that are alarming the researchers regarding the dwindling numbers of Hellbenders are diseases and the continuing warming water temperature that is caused by climate change.

The vote to officially recognize Hellbender as the official State amphibian comes at the backdrop of the animal not having federally protected status and while some states give the animal a protected status, Pennsylvania did not. The vote effectively makes the amphibian get in the list of the State's protected animals.

The common Wehrle's salamander that battled it out at the vote with Hellbender is named after the late naturalist R.W. Wehrle, of Indiana, Pennsylvania. 

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