Have you hugged a hellbender lately? Me neither.
Hellbenders aren’t exactly cuddly critters. They are a species of giant salamander, growing up to 3 feet long.
Hellbenders are slippery and slimy with beady eyes and like to hide under rocks. They are frequently mistaken for politicians.
But just because they are physically repulsive doesn’t mean hellbenders – like Lady GaGa – don’t deserve protection.
That’s why an outfit called the Center of Biological Diversity has filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to properly look out for the hellbender.
They want to grant the salamander endangered species status, Mother Nature’s version of the witness-protection program.
The lawsuit “seeks to force the federal government to move more aggressively to protect the hellbender from harm.”
The suit hits close to home because Tennessee is listed in the suit. The hellbender was once common to waters in East Tennessee, but over the years has grown increasingly scarce, like UT football victories.
I never realized hellbender abuse was a major national concern, but I suppose it’s nothing that a few billion tax dollars can’t soothe.
It’s easy to see how the hellbender could get overlooked by wildlife advocates. It’s not soft and fuzzy like a koala bear and doesn’t have the big, soulful eyes of a baby fur seal.
It doesn’t splash and swim delightfully on its back like an otter, or purr like a lion cub before Simba grows up and tries to eat the zookeeper.
The hellbender ranks somewhere below the blind, hairless, grub-eating African mole rat on the cute-o-meter.
Hellbenders don’t tug at your heartstrings. They will tug at your big toe, like a snapping turtle, though, if they get a chance.
In fairness, the Save the Salamander gang is simply seeking a fair shake for their guy. They want the government to do a better job of “managing” the hellbender, whatever that means.
I suppose we could post hellbender crossing signs along roadways, although as I understand it, they keep pretty much to streams and rivers.
Other than adding them to our Facebook page, I’m not sure what we can to do make the hellbender feel more warm, welcome and wanted.
According to the salamander activists, the first order of business is to conduct a study to determine if any hellbenders actually exit. In other words, they need to see if Elvis Presley has already left the building.
It would seem a waste of money, even by federal government standards, to spend a wad on a loathsome lizard that’s been dead for years.
But if there are still some hellbender holdouts out there, hanging on like Davy Crockett at the Alamo and waiting for help to arrive, their advocates are hell-bent on saving them.