Hellbenders are the largest salamanders found in North America. They are indigenous to swift-moving, oxygenated streams and important environmental indicators to water health. There are two hellbenders that reside in the E.C.O. Center at the Zoo.
Hellbenders feed primarily on crayfish, but they also may eat fish, frogs and a variety of invertebrates. They do eat smaller hellbenders.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status
Today, healthy populations of hellbenders are limited to a relatively few stream systems in areas that have remained isolated from development and urbanization, mainly in the rugged mountains of West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
This species is probably in significant decline (but probably at a rate of less than 30% over three generations, assuming a generation length to be approximately ten years) because of widespread habitat loss through much of its range, thus making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable.