Here is where I got the stats for the 3 creatures I discussed in the Podcast:
This episode discusses the living relatives of the Hellbender. The other giant salamanders, found in Asia, share some similar struggles as the Hellebender. You can help the critically endangered Chinese giant salamander through EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) at www.edgeofextinction.org
This minisode highlights the Help The Hellbender program from Purdue University. I had an email interview with Nick Burgmeier, the project coordinator for the Help the Hellbender program about conservation and how people can help Hellbenders. Spoilers below if you haven’t listened to the episode yet.
Per Nick Burgmeier:
The Help the Hellbender program’s main goal is to restore Hellbender populations throughout southern Indiana and to help restore their populations throughout the eastern US. Our primary methods for achieving this goal are:
1) Research into improvements in captive-rearing and release techniques that lead measurable increases in wild survival;
2) Maintaining a large captive population for release to the wild;
3) Outreach and education of the public;
4) Working with government agencies and landowners to improve habitat quality
The main threat currently facing Hellbenders is habitat loss and degradation. This comes in the form of agricultural runoff, deforestation, and mining. Other threats include disease, persecution, and ultimately, climate change.
There are several things people can do. Simple things include maintaining your cars to prevent chemicals leaking and running into storm drains or waterways, reducing pesticide, and fertilizer use in your lawn, disposing of chemicals properly (i.e., not in your lawn/storm drains). Maintaining septic systems is a big thing that often gets overlooked by landowners. They tend to be sort of out of sight, out of mind, but when they fail, they leak sewage into waterways and are expensive to fix. General maintenance [i.e. pumping] and not driving over your septic field/planting deeply rooted plants in your septic field really help to prevent issues.–For landowners that live near streams or rivers, leaving a buffer [which is a strip of unmown area between your yard and the stream] helps to filter runoff and keep the stream cool. For landowners that have sinkholes on their properties, we ask that they don’t treat them like trash cans. It is very common for landowners to just throw their trash/chemicals down sinkholes. What many of them don’t realize is that sinkholes feed into underground cave systems and eventually drain into waterways. Anything poured down those sinkholes ends up in the river.
A couple of things that can be done by people using the river (swimming, boating) include:
a. Don’t move rocks. All of the rock stacks that we see so commonly at popular swimming holes now were once habitat for Hellbenders and other aquatic animals. Larval and juvenile Hellbenders live under those rocks and moving them not only reduces habitat, but also puts the Hellbenders at risk of getting crushed during the rock moving.
b. For kayakers/canoeists, when you come to an especially shallow area it is recommended to not try to stay in your boat and shove your way through. Young Hellbenders and freshwater mussels live in these areas and can get crushed under the boat. We recommend just getting out of your boat and pulling it through, which you are likely to do anyway.
Slightly more involved projects involve installing rain barrels and rain gardens to reduce the amount of water moving through the system and filter the water before it gets into waterways.
We encourage agricultural landowners to look into cost-share programs that help pay for conservation practices (e.g., no-till farming, cover crops, riparian buffers) that reduce the amount of runoff reaching rivers and improve soil health.
One of the best ways to help within a community is to do one of the previously mentioned practices and then talk about it. Often times, other landowners will be interested and want to emulate what you have done. If enough people do it then it turns into a trend. Becoming involved with your local master natural and master gardener programs can also help. They have resources available for volunteer programs and often host conservation events.