Maryland's Salamanders and Newts  (Order Caudata)

Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis)

Adult photo of Eastern Hellbender courtesy of John White
Adult photo of Hellbender courtesy of John White

11½ - 20 in; Record: 29⅛ in.

  • Our largest salamander. 
  • Permanently aquatic, it has a depressed stout body, flattened round head with small beady lidless eyes, and a vertically compressed or keeled tail with a dorsal fin.
  • Conspicuous wrinkled folds of skin can be found between the front and rear limbs, with 5 toes on the hind feet. 
  • A large circular gill opening or slit occurs before each front limb, but there are no external gills once hellbenders have reached 4-5 inches in body length. 
  • The skin is exceedingly slimy.
  • Body color is usually brown or gray, but may be yellowish or greenish, often with numerous irregular dark or light spots on the back.
  • The lighter belly is a uniform brown or gray.


Habitat photo for Eastern Hellbender courtesy of Matt Kline
Habitat photo for Hellbender courtesy of Matt Kline

  • Large, rocky, fast-flowing streams and rivers.

Distribution in Maryland:
Maryland Distribution Map for Eastern Hellbender
Mostly found in Garrett County. There are historic records for Cecil County, unconfirmed historic records for Harford County and recent unconfirmed records for Cecil County, all in the Susquehanna River and tributaries.