The hellbender can’t get a break. People either love them or hate them. And their survival is at risk from both.
Winning endangered status for an animal species is no easy feat these days, what with the backlash from those who portray all efforts at conservation as job-killers and budget busters. However, in early October of this year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service showed the Ozark hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishop) the respect it deserves, by granting it protection under the Endangered Species Act. Unlike most other ESA decisions, the directive stopped short of safeguarding the animal’s habitats in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, for fear it would guide poachers straight to their home territory. In the words of the FWS press release, “the service determined that designating critical habitat under the ESA for the Ozark hellbender is not prudent because the designation would require publication of detailed descriptions of hellbender locations and habitat, making illegal collection for the pet trade more likely.”