Eastern Hellbender Voted Pennsylvania's Official Amphibian
Pennsylvania is getting an official amphibian, a nocturnal salamander that can grow to be more than two feet long.
The House voted 191-6 on Tuesday to grant the honor to the Eastern hellbender, and Gov. Tom Wolf's office said he plans to sign it.
The path to legislative recognition was not smooth, as the Eastern hellbender faced a stiff challenge from Wehrle's salamander.
Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming, who helped shepherd the bill through the House, said hellbenders had been on decline.
"Not many people have actually seen hellbenders," Everett said after the vote. "They live only in very clean streams, and they live under rocks."
Members of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's student leadership council began the campaign to designate it as the state's official amphibian, and their efforts were aided by Lycoming College's Clean Water Institute.
Hellbenders do not have federal protected status, and while some states give them protected status, Pennsylvania does not.
They are the largest North American amphibian, with a colorful set of nicknames that include mud devil, devil dog, ground puppy, snot otter, lasagna lizard and Allegheny alligator.
Wehrle's salamander, which is common, is named after the late naturalist R.W. Wehrle, of Indiana, Pennsylvania.