Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Salamanders and Newts
(Order Caudata)

Giant Salamanders (Family Cryptobranchidae)

Eastern Hellbender
(Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis)

Adult photo of Eastern Hellbender courtesy of John White
Adult photo of Eastern Hellbender courtesy of John White

Size

  • 11 - 20 in.

  • Record: 29⅛ in.

  • Appearance

  • Our largest salamander. 

  • Permanently aquatic, it has a depressed stout body, flattened round head with small beady lidless eyes, and a vertically compressed or keeled tail with a dorsal fin.

  • Conspicuous wrinkled folds of skin can be found between the front and rear limbs, with 5 toes on the hind feet. 

  • A large circular gill opening or slit occurs before each front limb, but there are no external gills once hellbenders have reached 4-5 inches in body length. 

  • The skin is exceedingly slimy.

  • Body color is usually brown or gray, but may be yellowish or greenish, often with numerous irregular dark or light spots on the back.

  • The lighter belly is a uniform brown or gray.

  • Habitat photo for Eastern Hellbender courtesy of Matt Kline
    Habitat photo for Eastern Hellbender courtesy of Matt Kline

    Habitat

  • Large, rocky, fast-flowing streams and rivers.

  • Maryland Distribution Map
    Maryland Distribution Map for Eastern Hellbender

    Status

    Mostly found in Garrett County.  There are historic records for Cecil County, unconfirmed historic records for Harford County and recent unconfirmed records for Cecil County, all in the Susquehanna River and tributaries. This is a State Endangered species.  If you find any please contact DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service.

    Return to Field Guide to Maryland Salamanders

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    Maryland Amphibian
    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.