Hellbender gets Senate OK as official Pennsylvania amphibian

This April 18, 2017 photo provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society shows an Eastern hellbender salamander, also known as a "snot otter," at New York's Bronx Zoo, in the Bronx borough of New York. Eastern hellbenders have flattened heads and bodies, small eyes, and slimy, wrinkly skin. They're typically brown or reddish-brown with a pale underbelly. (Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society via AP)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The state Senate is advancing legislation to make the Eastern hellbender the official amphibian of Pennsylvania, as researchers say its population is shrinking because of pollution.

The bill passed, 47-2, and heads to the House.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the hellbender is an aquatic salamander that can grow up to two feet long, making them the largest North American amphibian. They are nocturnal and prefer shallow, clear and fast streams with rocks to live under.

Researchers from Lycoming College in Williamsport say hellbenders live in rivers and streams throughout much of Pennsylvania, except for the Delaware River watershed. But they say the hellbender population is declining Pennsylvania because of mine drainage and sedimentation.

Hellbenders don’t have federal protected status, although some states give them protected status. Pennsylvania does not.

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