Hellbender Conservation Campaign

Campaign Title: Support Hellbender Conservation

Campaign Goal: $100,000

The Eastern Hellbender is the largest salamander in North America. Hellbender populations have declined precipitously throughout their geographic range in the eastern United States, with some populations approaching extinction. A few States have listed the salamander as threatened or endangered, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists it as a candidate species for federal protection. With many populations in Pennsylvania and New York approaching complete extirpation, and with no significant state or federal protection or funding, we have initiated recovery programs with the intent to augment populations in New York and Pennsylvania with juvenile hellbenders raised in captivity from wild-caught eggs (known as “head-starting”) and to place natural cover rocks and artificial habitat structure in streams where remnant populations have a good chance of recovery. We currently have 100 three-year-old and 134 six-month-old hellbenders being raised by our project partners, but we would like to raise at least 5,000 or more hellbenders for future release. We plan to assess the success of habitat enhancement and population augmentation through electronic monitoring of microchipped salamanders. To meet these goals, we seek funds to support head-starting, habitat enhancement, and monitoring of augmented populations. Donated funds will be used for:

  1. Collection of Eastern Hellbender eggs and larvae for rearing in captivity - $10K
  2. Aquarium supplies and food for rearing larvae until the age of three years - $10K
  3. Installation of natural and artificial cover rocks in historic hellbender streams - $25K
  4. Electronic monitoring of microchipped hellbenders using tracking equipment - $30K
  5. Preparation and dissemination of educational materials - $5K
  6. Summer internships for student participation in this project - $20K

Donate to Support Hellbender Conservation


Collection of Eggs

Collection of Eastern Hellbender eggs and larvae will be conducted each spring by removing small numbers of eggs from multiple clutches to ensure a diverse cohort for head-starting. Eggs and larvae will be reared by our partners with the Wildlife Conservation Society for one year before transfer to rearing facilities designed to accommodate the fast-growing salamanders as they approach their adult size. Funds are needed to construct, install, and maintain artificial instream habitat structures that will facilitate collection of eggs and larvae from the wild. Funds are also needed to construct specialized transport tanks for bringing eggs and larvae from the field to the rearing facility.


Aquarium Supplies and Food

The construction, operation, and maintenance of aquarium lab systems to rear larval and juvenile hellbenders will be conducted inside a building that has been offered for use to accommodate this project. Funds are needed to buy food, aquaria, pumps, PVC pipe, plumbing supplies, and charcoal and mechanical filters to construct a secure lab facility that will provide for the rearing of larval and juvenile hellbenders for a period of at least three years.


Natural and Artificial Rocks

Artificial and natural cover rocks will be placed in historic hellbender streams in order to enhance habitat and provide adequate shelter for juvenile hellbenders when they are released at three to four years of age. Funds are needed for supplies necessary to construct artificial cover rocks and to purchase slab rock that will be hand-placed in suitable stream locations.


Monitoring

Monitoring is key to the assessment of the success of this project. All released juvenile hellbenders will be fitted with microchips (passive integrated transponders) implanted beneath the skin. Tagged hellbenders will then be monitored for use of enhanced habitat, and movements into or out of the release site. Funds are needed to purchase the microchips, implanters, hand-held tag readers, and instream antenna systems that will continuously monitor hellbender activity.


Preparation and Dissemination

Collection and laboratory rearing of Eastern Hellbender eggs and larvae, construction and maintenance of suitable aquarium facilities, construction and installation of instream cover objects, and electronic monitoring of released juveniles will be conducted by students hired for the project and under the supervision of investigators from Lycoming College and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Funds are needed to support undergraduate student assistants for two summer seasons in support of this project.


Public Education

No conservation project is complete without education and outreach to local communities, school districts, and environmental organizations. Public presentations will be offered to any interested public group. Presentations will also be made at conferences to ensure dissemination of the outcome of this project to the greater scientific community. A 10-page, color, full-size brochure will be assembled, published, and provided to local community organizations, school districts, and other interested groups. The brochure will contain photographs and descriptions of the conservation efforts encompassed by this project. Funds are needed to prepare and publish the brochure, and to assemble and disseminate video clips and Powerpoint presentations for general use.


In order to reach our project goals and objectives, we need your help! We are seeking funds totaling $100,000 to complete up to three years of intensive work to restore Eastern Hellbender populations in Pennsylvania and New York. Any amount you are able to contribute is greatly appreciated. Project progress will be reported regularly at this site and links will be provided to additional information, photographs, videos, and other project resources that may be available.

Donate to Support Hellbender Conservation