Want to perform a public service and enjoy nature at the same time? Per the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission: Do nothing.

Nothing, that is, but note the location of any hellbenders you might see on your river treks.

The bodies of hellbenders are covered with a thick mucus which helps protect them from abrasion and parasites while also rendering them distasteful to predators, but that defense does little when it comes to human contact.

That limited contact is important because hellbenders in some parts of the United States fall under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and in North Carolina are a species of special concern. It is illegal to possess, transport or sell a hellbender.

Yet because of their declining numbers — and because those numbers provide clues to the health of our water quality and the environment that is their habitat — officials with NCWRC are continuing their yearlong inventory of the species.

Should you come across a hellbender, first things first: Leave it alone. But do note the physical location or GPS coordinates and take a picture, if you can. That information can be sent to lori.williams@ncwildlife.org.

And, if you still have questions about the species after your encounter, there’s a point of contact for that, too. Call the Commission of Wildlife Interaction Helpline at (866) 318-2401 to discuss your observations.

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