Feds: Prepare to spend to save Missouri’s ‘snot otter’

By Michael Doyle | 03/21/2024 01:18 PM EDT

The Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft recovery plan for the endangered species, officially called the eastern hellbender.

A hellbender.

A hellbender collected in southern Indiana's Blue River during a survey of populations of the rare amphibian in 2014. Rick Callahan/AP

Saving Missouri’s “snot otter” from extinction will likely cost more than $48 million and at least four decades of dedicated conservation work, the Fish and Wildlife Service estimates in a draft recovery plan for the prominent salamander known in polite society as the eastern hellbender.

North America’s largest salamander, Missouri’s distinct population of the eastern hellbender bears other monikers ranging from the flippant — “lasagna lizard” — to the frightening — “mud devil” — to the politically inspired. It is, under a 2019 bill passed by the Missouri General Assembly, the state’s “official endangered species.”

Now, the population may be a bit closer to recovery progress, with the conclusion earlier this month of a 60-day public review period for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s draft recovery plan. This sets the recovery team up for finalizing a plan it acknowledges poses serious challenges.


“Because we cannot currently estimate the costs of protecting and improving habitat and water quality, the total cost of completing recovery actions is likely higher than our estimates,” the plan states.