DETROIT, Mich., February 27, 2013 – “Snot otter” and “slime dog” may sound like names that kids might call each other on the playground, but they’re actually alternative monikers for the mudpuppy – a large, permanently aquatic salamander native to the Detroit River. The Belle Isle Nature Zoo will host an event to celebrate the mudpuppy on Sunday, March 10, 2013, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Mudpuppypalooza will feature fun and educational activities such as mask making, games and mudpuppy cookie decorating. The event will also include zookeeper talks, where visitors can view mudpuppies up close while learning about the species and conservation efforts on its behalf. Admission to the Belle Isle Nature Zoo and all Mudpuppypalooza activities are free.

In 2006, the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) embarked on a program to monitor the Detroit River mudpuppies, conducting catch-and-release surveys to track populations and better detect declines. Mudpuppies are measured, weighed and implanted with computer chips for identification before being returned to the river.

“While not a threatened species, mudpuppies are considered good environmental indicators of pollution and other potentially detrimental conditions,” said DZS Curator of Amphibians Marcy Sieggreen. “The data gathered in our mudpuppy surveys provides a valuable baseline for monitoring the health of the Detroit River ecosystem.”

The mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) is the second-largest salamander in the western hemisphere and is considered an important part of Michigan's aquatic ecosystem. Unlike its amphibian cousins, the mudpuppy never forms air-breathing lungs, but rather relies on the bushy red gills behind its head to breathe under water. The slippery salamander is typically brownish-gray with dark spots and a yellowish belly. A mature mudpuppy ranges in size from 8 to 15 inches.