Monday, May 18, 2015

DNR asks lakeshore owners to report seeing endangered mudpuppy salamanders, die-offs

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking lakeshore owners and citizens to report any mudpuppy salamanders they see, especially die-offs on rivers and lakes. A die-off is defined as five or more dead salamanders in a lake at the same place at the same time.
“We have had several dead mudpuppy reports by lake residents these past few years on Big Cormorant and Melissa lakes in Becker County,” said Krista Larson, DNR nongame research biologist. “We have collected salamanders to try to determine what has been killing them, but so far, the results have been inconclusive.”

Any mudpuppies caught or found dead should be photographed and reported to, or by calling the report line at 651-259-5076.
In 2013, mudpuppies were added to the state’s list of endangered and threatened species as a species of special concern due to habitat loss, stream siltation and pollution, and overharvest for bait or by biological supply companies.

Many people mistakenly call tiger salamanders “mudpuppies” or “waterdogs.” In fact, mudpuppies are a separate species and the largest salamander in Minnesota. While tiger salamanders spend their early lives in water and adult lives on land, mudpuppies are Minnesota’s only fully aquatic salamander, meaning they spend their entire lives in water. 

Mudpuppies are about 13 to16 inches long, brown or grayish in color, have spots peppered along their back and sides, and a light gray or buff underside. They have small eyes, a paddle-like tail for swimming, and external gills that look like feathery projections near their head.

Tiger salamanders are 7 to 13 inches long and are black with yellow markings. They are easy to separate from mudpuppies if they are adults (lacking external gills), but the young (larval) resemble small mudpuppies.

Mudpuppies have four toes on their back feet and tiger salamanders have five toes. Additionally, mudpuppies have a back (dorsal) fin only on their tail, whereas larval tiger salamanders have a dorsal fin that goes from their tail and nearly reaches their head.

They’re found in large to medium rivers throughout Minnesota, and also in lakes around the Alexandria and Detroit Lakes area. They can be found in swift gravel-bottom streams or slow muddy rivers. They lay eggs on the undersides of rocks, sunken logs, or other underwater structures.
Research on mudpuppies and other nongame wildlife is funded by donations to the Nongame Wildlife Program and the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff on Minnesota income tax forms.

To donate to the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program or for more information about it, visit
To read more about mudpuppies in the DNR’s Conservation Volunteer magazine, visit