Giant salamander helps detect clean water along Hiwassee River
It's not the friendliest looking creature, but it won't harm you.
It's not the friendliest looking creature, but it won't harm you. Weighing up to four pounds, a giant salamander found in the Tennessee Valley can live up to 30 years. It is called a Hellbender. If you ever see one in our rivers, it's a good thing.
Angelo Giansante, Park Manager of the Hiwassee/Ocoee Rivers State Park says, "It's one of those things, where you see it, and you go...(gasps)...you know because it is this huge creepy thing."
It's super sensitive because they breathe out of their skin. Herbicides, silt and dirt make it hard for them to breathe. So where there is a hellbender, it's a good indicator of clean water.
"They use to be very common, with two-thirds of the rivers and creeks in Tennessee, and in the past 20 years, they've died back a whole lot. The Hiwassee River, because of how clean it is...it's really the last refugees of their population," adds Giansante.
Once common along the Buffalo River, the decay of Hemlock trees over the last 10 years has contaminated waterways. That means fewer Hellbender Salamanders.
Currently, there are only hundreds left in the Hiwassee, leaving Angelo Giansante and other park managers to educate the public in an effort keep the waters clean and welcoming to this giant salamander.
Have a weather-related story? Feel free to email Meteorologist Brittany Beggs.