City Cast

New Film Celebrates the Hellbender, Pennsylvania's State Amphibian

Francesca Dabecco
Francesca Dabecco
Posted on July 6   |   Updated on July 7
Hellbender salamander illustration

Hellbender salamander illustration. (Getty)

Do you remember when the hellbender was named Pennsylvania’s official state amphibian a few years ago? It’s the largest salamander in North America, and it can be found in rivers and streams throughout the state. It has some funny nicknames, too: snot otter, devil dog, grampus, Allegheny alligator, and lasagna lizard.

I’ve never seen one with my own eyes, and there’s likely a reason why — they’re rare, because of pollution’s disruption to their habitat. Hellbenders breathe through their skin, so they have really permeable bodies that are sensitive to pollutants. There’s a new short documentary all about it called “Hellbent,” which looks at the amphibians’ journey while an Indiana County community attempts to stop the disposal of fracking wastewater deep under the township.

Want to support fellow fans? Hellbender Vinyl is now pressing records at its new Lawrenceville shop. Hellbenders Adventure Collective helps women and gender-diverse outdoor enthusiasts get shreddy on local trails. And you can crack into delicious Hellbender Bagels at Scratch & Co., in Troy Hill, or at other pop-ups across the city.

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