Eastern Hellbender

STATUSNear Threatened

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Cryptobranchus alleganiensis

DIETSmall fish, mollusks, worms, and crayfish

RANGECentral and Eastern United States; New York south to Georgia and Mississippi, westward to Missouri and Southeastern Kansas

HABITATInland freshwater wetlands; fast-running shallow water

Eastern Hellbender

Physical Description

Hellbenders can grow to be 12-29 inches long and weigh 5-6 lbs. They have a sleek, flattened head and body; short, stout legs, long, rudder-like tails; and loose flaps of skin that run along their sides. Their color varies from grayish-brown to olive-brown, and less commonly black.


They can be preyed on by raccoons, river otters, fish, turtles, birds, and even larger hellbenders.


In the wild, they live an average of 30-35 years, but in human care they have been known to live 50 years or more.


During late summer and early fall, males will dig a nest under a rock to attract a female who will lay 200-400 eggs. Females will then leave the nest, so sometimes multiple females will lay eggs in the same nest. Males will externally fertilize the eggs and then stay to guard the eggs until they hatch in about 68-75 days.

Fun Facts

  • The hellbender is split into 2 subspecies: the Eastern and the Ozark. They are the largest salamanders in North America and are the third largest salamander in the world.
  • Hellbenders have lungs, but they use capillaries in the folds of their skin to absorb oxygen from water instead of breathing air. Because of this, it is very important for them to live in clean water.

Conservation Messaging

In our Reptile and Amphibian (RAD) center you will find many different reptiles and amphibians including venomous and poisonous species of snakes and frogs. Many of these animals fall victim to habitat loss in the wild. Many of the species here are found in South American habitats which are subjected to deforestation, damming of rivers, water pollution, and poor agricultural and management practices.

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