Eastern Hellbender
Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis

Common Name:

Eastern Hellbender

Scientific Name:

Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis



Cryptobranchus is derived from the Greek and means "hidden gills". This refers to the lack of large external gills.


alleganiensis means belonging to the Allegheny Mountains


alleganiensis means belonging to the Allegheny Mountains

Average Length:

11.5 - 20 in. (29.2 - 51 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

male 27 in. (68.6 cm), female 29.1 in. (74 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier II - Very High Conservation Need - Has a high risk of extinction or extirpation. Populations of these species are at very low levels, facing real threat(s), or occur within a very limited distribution. Immediate management is needed for stabilization and recovery.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This is a large aquatic salamander with a flattened head, and stocky body with fleshy folds of skins on its sides, a keeled tail, and powerful limbs. The color is usually chocolate brown with darker marking on the dorsum. The adults reach a total length of 76 cm *1171*. The head is very broad and flattened with a wide and very flattened snout. The very small, black eyes are widely separated and placed dorsally. The neck width is as great as or slightly greater than the head. Large wrinkled lateral folds between the limbs are diagnostic. The tail is shorter than the body, and strongly compressed. The color in life is from yellow-brown, red-brown, to dark brown with varying numbers of black blotches and spots. Ventrally, they are lighter and sparsely spotted if at all. Coloration in preservative is dull brown to gray with the pattern often becoming indistinct. The females (197-361 mm SVL) are larger that the males (122-353 mm SVL). Hatchling larvae from New York are approximately 29 mm TL. Gill loss occurs at 100-130 mm TL, which is at approximately 18 months *9286*.

REPRODUCTION: Mating takes place in late summer in West Virginia. The male excavates and guards a nest in which a female may lay eggs. The eggs are fertilized externally. The clutch varies from 450 to nearly 1100 eggs in other states *9286*.

BEHAVIOR: This species inhabits moderate to fast flowing streams and rivers with large flat rocks. It nests under rocks, logs, and other objects *890*. They are nocturnal, diurnal average range is 346 square meters in Pennsylvania *9286*. They are often scavenged. Trout are not consumed.

ORIGIN: This species is native *06*.

POPULATION PARAMETERS: Hellbenders tend to be relatively long-lived, reaching ages greater than 25 years. Clutches vary from 450-1100 eggs in other states *9286*.

References for Life History

  • 865 - Bishop, S.C., 1941, The salamanders of New York, New York State Mus. Bull., Vol. 324, pg. 1-365
  • 890 - Dodd, C.K., Jr., Linzey, D.W. (Ed.), 1979, Hellbender, Proc. Symp. on Endangered and Threatened Plants and Animals of Virginia, pg. 389-390, 665 pgs., Ext. Div., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ., Blacksburg
  • 1171 - Bury, R.B., C.K. Dodd, Jr., G.M. Fellers, 1980, Conservation of the Amphibia of the United States: A review, Res. Publ. No. 134, 34 pgs., U.S. Dep. Inter., Fish and Wildl. Serv., Washington, D.C
  • 9286 - Terwilliger, K.T., 1991, Virginia's endangered species: Proceedings of a symposium. Coordinated by the Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, Nongame and Endangered Species Program, 672 pp. pgs., McDonald and Woodward Publ. Comp., Blacksburg, VA


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Floyd County
Giles County
Grayson County
Lee County
Montgomery County
Pulaski County
Radford City
Russell County
Scott County
Smyth County
Tazewell County
Washington County
Verified in 12 Counties/Cities.

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