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Eastern hellbender

Giant salamanders released into NY streams

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An Eastern hellbender being released. (Photo by Max Pulsinelli | Wildlife Conservation Society) An Eastern hellbender being released. (Photo by Max Pulsinelli | Wildlife Conservation Society)
An Eastern hellbender in a zoo habitat. (Photo by Julie Larsen Maher | Wildlife Conservation Society) An Eastern hellbender in a zoo habitat. (Photo by Julie Larsen Maher | Wildlife Conservation Society)
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Animal experts from the Bronx Zoo, the Buffalo Zoo, and the state's Environmental Conservation Department have released some large salamanders into streams in the western part of the state, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"We are proud to partner with the New York DEC and Buffalo Zoo on this exciting release of Eastern hellbenders into the wild," said Jim Breheny, Director of the Bronx Zoo. "This collaboration underscores the important contributions zoos are making to the conservation of wildlife in their native habitat."

The Eastern hellbender is one of the largest species of salamander in the world. They are also known by the colorful names devil dogs, Allegheny alligators, and snot otters.

The project began in 2009 when DEC workers collected the salamander eggs from the Allegheny River drainage. The eggs then hatched at the Buffalo Zoo, and the young amphibians were raised at a facility at the Bronx Zoo away from the exhibits, WCS said.

The workers released 38 hellbenders, which were tagged with tiny chips under the skin, under submerged rocks, giving them the best chance of survival, in the same area that the eggs came from.

New York considers the hellbender a species of "Special Concern" because populations are declining. WCS said disease, pollution, and habitat destruction have contributed to that decline.

Hellbenders -- which have flattened heads and bodies, small eyes, and slimy, wrinkly skin -- usually hide under large rocks in rocky, fast-flowing streams, WCS said. Adults can grow to about two feet long.

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