Chattanooga Zoo releases first crop of baby Hellbender salamanders

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – The Chattanooga Zoo has released their first class of hellbender salamanders back into the wild.

They are the product of the Hellbender Headstart Program which was created to help restore them because of threatened habitat.

The program hatches hellbender eggs and Dr. Michael Freake of Lee University goes out into local streams looking for newly hatched salamanders to bring in to the project.

Hellbenders have a high mortality rate in their first years.

The Zoo released their first group of young salamanders into local streams earlier this month.

Hellbendenders are large salamanders that have an important role in keeping our streams healthy.

“We are so excited to be releasing our first set of head start hellbender juveniles this spring. It will be the culmination of all the hard work and planning over the past several
years. Our dedicated animal care staff have worked hard to care for them since they were eggs. To see them go on to boost the hellbender population in east Tennessee is why we
do the work that we do.” – Lacey Hickle, General Curator.

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