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Wisconsin DNR asks for ice angler’s help surveying mudpuppies this winter

An adult mudpuppy found during a snorkeling survey over the summer. Surveys consist of flipping rocks until locating a mudpuppy. After all data is collected, mudpuppies are released back under the rock that they were originally found.
Wisconsin DNR
An adult mudpuppy found during a snorkeling survey over the summer. Surveys consist of flipping rocks until locating a mudpuppy. After all data is collected, mudpuppies are released back under the rock that they were originally found.

Wisconsin is home to seven different species of salamanders, but only one of them is fully aquatic.

Mudpuppies are dark-colored salamanders with long torsos and short legs.

Adults of the species are usually between 11 and 15 inches long.

Despite their size, the elusive creatures are hard to find, according to Wisconsin DNR Conservation Biologist Lena Carlson.

“Part of that is just because they live in the water. They also will hide underneath rocks at the bottom of the water,” said Carlson.

That’s made it hard for the DNR to get a population estimate of species.

Carlson is hoping to change that because the health of the mudpuppy population can tell the DNR a lot about the health of Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers.

“They’re very sensitive to pollutants that could be present in the water so if mudpuppies aren’t doing well these environments aren’t doing well either,” she said.

To help figure out where mudpuppies are and how prevalent they are, the DNR is calling on ice fishermen to help.

Mudpuppies tend to be a bit more active in the winter and it’s not uncommon for fishermen to hook the salamander instead of a fish.

If this happens to you, Carlson is asking you to snap a picture and send it and the location to DNRherptiles@wisconsin.gov.

Carlson also asks that fishermen be as gentle as possible when removing the hook from mudpuppies and returning them to the water.

And if you’re not an ice fisherman, she says there are still ways for you to help.

“The best thing to do is to keep water bodies clean and free from pollutants. If you do end up catching one, handle it very gently and do return it back to the water and they won’t be able to survive if they aren’t in the water,” said Carlson.

You can learn more about mudpuppies on the Wisconsin DNR’s website.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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