ALABAMA (WHNT) — Alabama is home to quite a few animals with strange names, but none may be more misleading than the hellbender.
What exactly is a hellbender?
According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), the Eastern hellbender is a “large, totally aquatic salamander.” Sometimes they are known by less threatening names like mudpuppy, water dogs, and the Allegheny Alligator.
ADCNR describes the creature as having a flat head, long tail, and four short legs with with rough toes to move along the bottom of streams. They begin life with gills, but wildlife experts say they shed those at 18 months old.
While there isn’t a confirmed story on how the creatures got the “hellbender” moniker, PBS NewsHour says “one theory is that fishermen named them hellbenders because they look ‘like they crawled out of Hell and are bent on going back.'”
Hellbenders can be found from Southern New York to north Georgia and Alabama, and westward toward Illinois and Kentucky. However, these populations are listed as “rare and possibly endangered.”
ADCNR says hellbenders are “now confined to a few free-flowing Tennessee River tributaries.” They are listed as a highest conservation concern.
Learn more about hellbenders and other Alabama animals here.