Crawling through the muck at the bottom of Maine lakes, mudpuppies are large amphibians that were accidentally introduced to the state in 1939, and have been perplexing ice fishermen ever since.
“Surprisingly, we’ve known very little about mudpuppies until recently,” said Phillip deMaynadier, biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
In 2017, the DIF&W teamed up with the University of Maine and Colby College to learn more about this non-native species and how it’s impacting aquatic ecosystems in Maine. Now two years later, they’ve learned that the state’s mudpuppy population is thriving — and it has spread.
What’s a mudpuppy?
The largest amphibian in Maine, mudpuppies can exceed 16 inches in length. They’re salamanders, but unlike Maine’s other salamander species, they’re waterbound. Breathing through big, feathery external gills, they crawl along the bottom of lakes, streams and rivers.
In addition to being exceptionally large, they’re quite colorful. Their bodies are gray or brownish-gray with dark blue spots, and their gills are red. They have flat heads, wide tails, stubby legs and four toes on each foot.
With the scientific name Necturus maculosus, mudpuppies are also sometimes called “water dogs” due to the barking sound they sometimes make.
Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...
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