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Ga DNR: Have You Seen a Snot Otter aka Eastern Hellbender?

Georgia Dept of Natural Resources

No, this is not Season 2 of Stranger Things. Georgia Department of Natural Resources is asking the public to snap and send photos if they come across a “snot otter” aka eastern hellbender.

Hellbender angling for trout on a stringer (special to DNR)

Water dog, grampus, snot otter. All of these odd names refer to the same rare amphibian that DNR wildlife biologist Thomas Floyd is keeping tabs on – the eastern hellbender.

In Georgia, hellbenders are found in cold, fast-moving streams at the northernmost edges of the state. The species is North America’s largest salamander. Stretching up to 2 feet long and reaching a hefty 5 pounds, you will know it when you see it.

When you do, whether it’s a big adult or a small juvenile, please do not disturb the hellbender. Instead, take a photograph if possible and email details on the sighting – day, time, place and estimated size of the salamander – to

Hellbender remains found beside a stream and a live hellbender in the water (Ethan Hatchett/DNR; special to DNR)

Description of Eastern Hellbender:

The hellbender is an extremely large, fully aquatic salamander typically ranging 29-51 cm (11½ – 20 in) in total length, though some individuals may reach 74 cm (29 inches). The body and broad head of this species are flattened, while the rudder-like tail is laterally compressed. Tiny, widely separated eyes are located on top of the head. Both the front and hind limbs are short, stout, and posteriorly keeled. A conspicuous lateral, wrinkly skin fold extends down both sides between the front and hind limbs. The body is yellowish brown, reddish brown, or dark brown in color, with dark irregular blotches or mottling. The venter is typically paler with little or no markings. A single pair of gill slits is present, though gills are lacking in adults. Young have a pair of gills that typically are lost upon reaching 10-13 cm (4-5 inches) in total length; otherwise, they are similar to adults.

Georgia Dept of Natural Resources

See more eastern hellbender facts HERE.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Michael Hedden

    June 26, 2022 at 8:34 pm

    About 70 years ago, my father and I would fish in what was known as the “blue hole” in the Hiawassee river. Typically we would catch 4 to 5 “water dogs in an afternoon. I’m sure there’s still a few in the river.

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