This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ST. LOUIS – Over the course of fall 2021, more than 1,300 hellbender eggs successfully hatched at the Saint Louis Zoo.

Exactly 750 Saint Louis Zoo-bred hellbenders hatched at the Charles H. Hoessle Herpatarium at the zoo. In addition, 583 Ozark and eastern hellbenders hatched from eggs the Missouri Department of Conservation collected from state river systems and brought to the zoo for protection.

Hellbenders are the continent’s largest aquatic salamander. Missouri is the only state to have both subspecies of hellbenders – the Ozark and eastern.

Both the Ozark and eastern hellbender populations in Missouri have declined more than 70% over the past 40 years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and are considered federally endangered.

A species assessment showed all hellbender populations had a 96% risk of extinction over the next 75 years unless the population increases. To slow the endangerment of the amphibians, the Saint Louis Zoo began raising hellbenders from eggs.

Since 2011, the zoo has successfully hatched 12,000 hellbenders.

Once these new hatchlings are between 2 and 8 years old, they’ll be released back into their natural habitat.

Since 2008, more than 8,600 Saint Louis Zoo-raised endangered hellbenders (664 eastern and 7,977 Ozark) have been reintroduced to the wild in Missouri.

Fun facts:

  • Other names for the hellbender include “snot otter” and “old lasagna sides.”
  • Their closest relatives are in China and Japan.
  • They can live over 25 years.
  • Their diet includes crayfish, fish, worms, and snails.