Wildlife Officials Release 'Modern Day Dinosaur' Into Tennessee Waterways
By Sarah Tate
July 21, 2021
After experiencing a steady decline throughout the years, a unique aquatic species is getting a new chance.
Wildlife experts and Nashville Zoo officials re-introduced the hellbender back into Tennessee waterways on Friday (July 16). North America's largest salamander, which has been described as a "modern day dinosaur," per FOX 17, can grow to nearly 3 feet long, breathe entirely through their skin, and is recognized as a state-endangered species.
According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), many people consider hellbenders to be frightening when in reality they are quite gentle. There is also a common myth behind the prehistoric species that their bite is poisonous, but the TWRA said they are actually completely harmless.
On Friday, the agency, along with the Nashville Zoo and Tennessee State University, announced that it had released 29 zoo-raised eastern hellbenders into the waters of Tennessee over the past month, a project that was six years in the making after the species' population began declining, according to the zoo.
"With this slow decline over several decades, hellbenders had disappeared from most of their formerly extensive range in Tennessee," the zoo wrote in a blog post.
The zoo shared a video of the moment they released the hellbenders into their new home, which can be seen here.