Alabama Chapter of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation


Fall 2023 Annual Meeting

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Alabama Hellbender Initiative

Recently published, this study was conducted by ALAPARC volunteers

Graham, Sean, Eric Soehren, George Cline, Christina Schmidt, William Sutton, James Rayburn, Sierra Stiles, and James Stiles. 2011. Conservation status of hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) in Alabama, USA. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 6(2):242?249. (pdf)

In many states where hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) were once common, drastic declines have occurred, and this salamander is now one of the most imperiled amphibians in North America. Museum collections indicate hellbenders once occurred in many drainages in northern Alabama, however, the last verified record of a living hellbender in this state was in 1990 (see below).

The purpose of this initiative is to generate voluntary interest from experienced herpetologists in Alabama to determine the current range and status of Alabama hellbenders. Early thoughts on how this could easily and cheaply be accomplished are:

Cryptobranchus alleganiensis
  1. A request for possible unverified or unpublished reports of hellbenders to develop a database of all known collection records; this request will be channeled through an existing hellbender information-sharing website.

  2. An adopt-a-stream program to pool effort among interested volunteers; each individual will devote at least four sampling occasions per year for at least one historic hellbender collection site.

  3. A bioblitz competition in which individuals with experience trapping or collecting hellbenders—as well as other interested participants—will be encouraged to document living hellbenders on a competitive basis.

  4. Acquisition of funds (grants or donations) to purchase materials for the construction of traps, which can be utilized for determining presence/absence of hellbenders with minimal effort, and could be incorporated into the adopt-a-stream program.

  5. Acquisition of funds (grants or donations) to distribute educational materials near bridge crossings and other fishing spots in northern Alabama within the potential range of hellbenders to solicit information and cooperation among locals.   

Is this the last Alabama hellbender??

dismals bender.JPG

This summer, the kind folks at Dismals Canyon Preserve gave ALAPARC members the hellbender specimen they had found dead in the canyon back in 2006. This hellbender was found on 21 July 2006, and thus is currently the most recently encountered hellbender in the state. Such a recent find has certainly reinvigorated our hopes that the ALAPARC hellbender initiative will succeed in documenting live hellbenders somewhere in the state! The specimen is now housed in the Auburn University Herpetological Collections, currently the largest repository for Alabama hellbender specimens. Two follow up surveys attempted this year at the canyon have been unsuccessful in documenting additional specimens. For more information about the spectacular Dismals Canyon Preserve, visit their website.

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