The eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in Ohio and one of the largest living amphibians in the world. A large adult can exceed 2 feet and weigh more than 2 pounds. Hellbenders are completely aquatic and spend their lives under large rocks in clean streams where they feed on crawfish and other aquatic organisms. A hellbender’s wrinkled skin is specially adapted to absorb oxygen through the water, while their flattened body allows them to squeeze into tight spots under rocks.
Partners are working to restore the hellbender's stream habitat. Habitat improvement includes planting trees, preventing stream bank erosion and reducing agricultural runoff into streams. Partners include the ODNR Division of Wildlife, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the Belmont and Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation Districts and local land trusts.
Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District is part of the Ohio Hellbender Partnership, an organization of private, state and federal entities that is trying to preserve the state endangered hellbender. Our office has been housing a baby hellbender since Aug. 24, 2017.
In the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District Office, hellbender conservation is represented by two separate but equal groups: The staff that is dedicated to educating, caring and sacrificing for the hellbender, and the hellbender who lives up to his name. Anyone can come and see Branagan the Hellbender at 500 Market Street, Mezzanine Suite 4, Steubenville, Ohio, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, or they can follow him on his Instagram account (@branagan_hellbender) accessed via the app or www.instagram.com/branagan_hellbender.
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