Ohio vocational school raising hellbender salamanders


PERRYSBURG, Ohio (AP) — High school students at a northwest Ohio vocational school are raising hellbenders — North America’s largest salamander.

The salamanders have seen an 80 percent decline over the past 36 years, John Navarro, of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, told The Blade in Toledo (http://bit.ly/1VNmOQW ) .

Navarro said there were so few salamanders that biologists who were looking for them couldn’t find any. When they did find them, he said there were never any juveniles.

“Their numbers were scary low,” he said.

Students at Penta Career Center in Perrysburg are now raising the large, lizard-like amphibians, which can grow to longer than two feet. The school is located about 10 miles south of Toledo.

Marie Kuron, 18, a Penta senior who hopes to work in wildlife care and rehabilitation, said working with the endangered species gives her a head start in her field.

“When we enter the lab and scrub in to protect these animals from any outside germs, I realize how serious this is,” Kuron said. “We need to try our best to keep this species alive.”

The school converted a storage room into a laboratory. Students will raise about 170 juvenile hellbenders there over the next couple years. The salamanders will then be released into southern Ohio streams.

The animals arrived at the school more than a month ago.

Ron Matter, superintendent at Penta, said the program opens many doors for its students and that students have a real opportunity to conduct research that could help the threatened species.

Penta joined the Ohio Hellbender Partnership, a group that hopes to save the salamanders using a captive rearing and release program. About 250 hellbenders have been raised to 3 years old and released since the project began.

___

Information from: The Blade, http://www.toledoblade.com/