Eastern hellbender voted Pennsylvania’s official amphibian
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania is getting an official amphibian, a nocturnal salamander that can grow to be more than two feet long.
The House voted 191-6 on Tuesday to grant the honor to the Eastern hellbender, and Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said he plans to sign it.
The path to legislative recognition was not smooth, as the Eastern hellbender faced a stiff challenge from Wehrle’s salamander.
Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming, who helped shepherd the bill through the House, said hellbenders had been on decline.
“Not many people have actually seen hellbenders,” Everett said after the vote. “They live only in very clean streams, and they live under rocks.”
Members of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s student leadership council began the campaign to designate it as the state’s official amphibian, and their efforts were aided by Lycoming College’s Clean Water Institute.
Hellbenders, snot otters, lasagna lizard, devil dog—whatever you may call them, the Eastern hellbender is one step closer to becoming the state amphibian on Pennsylvania! Today the PA House voted 191-6 to send this bill on to Governor Tom Wolf's desk (th… https://t.co/GSngLfFRXM pic.twitter.com/XrgaImx1dd
— Chesapeake Bay Foundation (@chesapeakebay) April 16, 2019
Hellbenders do not have federal protected status, and while some states give them protected status, Pennsylvania does not.
They are the largest North American amphibian, with a colorful set of nicknames that include mud devil, devil dog, ground puppy, snot otter, lasagna lizard and Allegheny alligator.
Wehrle’s salamander, which is common, is named after the late naturalist R.W. Wehrle, of Indiana, Pa.