Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis)


In 2019, Missouri designated the hellbender salamander as the state’s official endangered species. The name “hellbender,” may imply this creature is dangerous, but these amphibians are harmless to humans. They are the largest salamander species in the United States and can be found in freshwater rivers and streams throughout the eastern part of the country. Hellbenders, also known as “snot otters” or “lasagna lizards,” can live up to 30 years and grow to a length of two feet. They breathe through their skin and are nocturnal foragers, subsisting on a diet of crayfish and small fish.

There are two subspecies of C. alleganiensis: the eastern hellbender and the Ozark hellbender, the latter found only in the White River watershed of Missouri and northern Arkansas. On Oct. 6, 2011, the Ozark hellbender gained national endangered species status, while the eastern hellbender was classified as near threatened. The eastern hellbender is also state-endangered per 3 CSR 10-4.111. Both subspecies are important indicators of overall stream health. As of 2019, the Ron Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation’s successful breeding program at the St. Louis Zoo has released over 5,000 hellbenders into the wild.


Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMo)

§10.200. Hellbender salamander, snot otter, or lasagna lizard designated as official state endangered species. – The Cryptobranchus alleganiensis, also known as the hellbender salamander, snot otter, or lasagna lizard, is selected for and shall be known as the official endangered species for the state of Missouri. (L. 2019 H.B. 565 merged with S.B. 210)

approved 11 July 2019
effective 28 August 2019


Photo Gallery:

Click on an image below to enlarge and read a caption. This will open a new window in the Missouri State Symbols Flickr album.

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Additional Resources:

Search historic issues of the Missouri Conservationist on the Missouri Digital Heritage website here.

Visit the Ron Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation website here.

Woodbury, Emily. “How a Conservation Project Has Saved Missouri’s Hellbenders for Another Generation.” St. Louis Public Radio, December 2, 2020.


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