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Eastern Hellbender

When I say Eastern Hellbender…what comes to mind? Rock band? Maybe a biker gang? It’s actually a type of giant, not-especially attractive salamander. And it’s Pennsylvania’s state amphibian, named as such in 2019, when Republican State Senator Gene Yaw co-sponsored a bill in its honor.

According to the DCNR, or the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Eastern Hellbender is a species in decline, but isn’t considered threatened or endangered. So why all the hoopla? Eastern Hellbenders need especially clean water in which to live. Which is why you’ll be seeing their ugly mugs – “Allegheny alligators,” as Senator Yaw has remarked – on new PA state license plates. A portion of the cost of the plate will go to the state’s Wild Resources Conservation Fund, which exists to protect the state’s native flora and non-game wildlife.

I’m Julie Sidoni, and this has been a Pennsylvania Postcard from WVIA News.

Juile Sidoni currently serves as WVIA's News Director. Julie began her award-winning journalism career in public radio, at the NPR affiliate WDUQ-FM in Pittsburgh.