Hellbender

Adult Ozark hellbenders can reach up to two feet in length, making them one of the largest salamanders in the world.
Ray Meibaum | Saint Louis Zoo

The Saint Louis Zoo is sharing its expertise in matchmaking ... for salamanders.

It's part of the 7th Hellbender Symposium, which has drawn more than 100 participants from the Midwest, the Eastern U.S., Japan and China.

National Park Service

(Updated at 3:39 p.m., February 20)

Missouri senators passed a resolution to block the federal government's proposed changes in tourist restrictions at the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The resolution passed on a 23-8 vote on Thursday and now heads to the House.

Guide to Current River aims to educate

Aug 21, 2013
Stuart Keating
Chelsea Embree | Beacon intern | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Environment Missouri, an environmental advocacy group, released the "Citizens' Guide to the Current River" at Kirkwood's Alpine Shop on Wednesday in hopes of educating the public about the river in anticipation of the National Park Service's new general management plan.

Jill Utrup/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Saint Louis Zoo once again is teeming with baby giant salamanders.

For the second year in a row, the zoo has successfully bred endangered Ozark hellbenders in captivity.

This time, a total of eight females laid 2,809 fertile eggs. Two-hundred and fourteen salamander larvae have hatched so far, with many more expected.

Even though the salamanders are smaller than a quarter when they first hatch, as adults they can reach lengths of up to two feet.

Ozark hellbender
Jeff Briggler | Missouri Department of Conservation | File photo

You may remember our story about the St. Louis Zoo successfully breeding an endangered giant salamander. Now the hellbender is being honored in song:

The St. Louis band FIRE DOG is offering its hellbender song as a free download on Sunday in honor of Earth Day.

In the meantime, here are the lyrics:

It's flat. It's slimy. And it hides under rocks on the river bottom. It's the Ozark hellbender, and at up to two feet in length, it's one of the world's largest salamanders.

But Ozark hellbenders are disappearing: Fewer than 600 are left in the rivers of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Scientists have been making a huge effort to get them to breed in captivity. And now, thanks to a major effort at the Saint Louis Zoo, 2012 could be the year of new hope for hellbenders.

For the first time ever, an endangered amphibian found only in a few Missouri and Arkansas counties has been successfully bred in captivity.

Officials with the St. Louis Zoo and Missouri Department of Conservation said Wednesday that 63 Ozark hellbenders have been bred at the zoo. The first hatched on Nov. 15, and an additional 120 eggs are expected to hatch within the next week.

The breeding is the result of a decade-long collaboration of the zoo and the conservation department. 

(Jill Utrup, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Ozark hellbender as a federally endangered species that cannot be harmed, killed, or bought and sold as a pet.

The Ozark hellbender is found only in the streams of the White River system in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

Ozark hellbender populations have dropped by 75 percent since the 1980s, with fewer than 600 remaining in the wild.