Assessment of Eastern Hellbender Populations in Kentucky: Distribution, Recruitment and Landscape Genetics

Grants and Contracts Details


The Eastern Hellbender Cryptobranchus alleganiensis, is thought to be widely distributed throughout Kentucky. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has recently supported projects to assess hellbender populations. These projects consisted of both physical searches for live animals and eDNA surveys. Upon completion of this work, eastern hellbender population viability is still in question. Search efforts yielded limited results of animals, while eDNA work indicated they were widely distributed in a number of streams both large and small throughout the state. With interest in augmenting or head starting juvenile hellbenders, it is imperative that we institute a method to assess current population structure in some key sites throughout the state. Currently, with the best scientific information available, age class structure and accurate distribution are largely unknown. By placing artificial habitat structures in streams where we know animals are persisting, we will have the ability to capture animals, assess age classes, assess health, and determine if recruitment is occurring within particular streams. In addition, stream conditions will be assessed to look for correlations with water quality, substrate parameters, and watershed conditions. This information can then be used to make a recommendation on potentially augmenting Kentucky’s hellbender populations in the future. Objectives: 1. Install artificial structures in high priority waters known to host eastern hellbenders 2. Assess water quality, stream and watershed conditions to determine any correlations with hellbender population recruitment 3. Determine if augmentation or head starting of young is warranted to ensure viable populations in the future
Effective start/end date7/1/2110/31/21


  • KY Department of Fish and Wildlife: $35,000.00


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