Hellbender Conservation in Tennessee
Thanks to a collaboration with Logan Schmitt, we raised funds to expand an existing Hellbender conservation project in the Western Highland Rim of Tennessee. We hope this expansion will help stabilize the population in an additional stream habitat while we work to understand why they are declining. Hellbender populations in middle Tennessee have experienced alarming declines over the past two decades. We are installing a series of nest boxes within a Tennessee stream to provide critical habitat the Hellbenders there urgently need for nesting areas and hiding spots. The target stream contains only large adult salamanders, an important clue that the Hellbender population is declining, probably because they are not reproducing successfully. We will also initiate a health assessment and monitoring program to better understand why the Hellbender population is in trouble. Our conservation efforts will aim to bolster this population by improving the chances of reproduction as well as increasing the survival of hatchling Hellbenders.