French Creek’s Signature Salamander
Eastern hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis)—giant aquatic salamanders that can reach 29 inches in length and weigh over 5 pounds—are one of the most unique creatures in the French Creek Watershed. The salamander requires cool, clear, rock-laden streams for its habitat where it preys on crawfish, fish, insects and worms. Although it has lungs, a hellbender breathes by absorbing oxygen from the water through thousands of capillaries located in the folds of its skin. French Creek supports a stable population of eastern hellbenders, however their numbers have been reduced in many eastern streams due to acid mine drainage, siltation and industrial pollution.