Clean, clear, life-giving water: We need it. Trout need it. And Hellbenders need it, too.
Unfortunately, clean, clear water is becoming harder to find.
Nevertheless, with help from our partners at Marshall University, we have determined, via environmental DNA (eDNA) that Hellbenders continue to occur in WV and extreme southeastern OH. Here are the facts so far:
- WV was sampled statewide where Hellbenders were historically known. OH was sampled less extensively.
- Two previously unknown populations were discovered.
- Hellbenders are hanging on in 30% of the stream stretches sampled, but undetectable in 70%.
- Many Hellbender populations appear to be robust where streams flow through public lands such as national forests and state parks.
- Hellbenders may have been extirpated in many areas where streams flow through private lands.
So what's next? The Marshall gang is developing occupancy and extirpation models to pinpoint the differences between occupied and unoccupied streams. Whether sediment/silt, pollution from industry and development, or incompatible stream alteration, we will be able to help landowners and habitat managers identify and improve critical habitat variables.
We expect these models to be completed this fall and we will work hard to put the associated guidance into the hands of key stakeholders in the area. It's going to be a big job, but if even one population benefits, it will be worth it!
The Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy
P.S. Don't forget to visit our new website and, while you're there, please make a donation to help us with this huge task.