Archive: Learn About Slime Dogs and Snot Otters at the Belle Isle Nature Center

Mudpuppypalooza celebrates Detroit River salamander

March 29, 2018

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) will host its annual Mudpuppypalooza at the Belle Isle Nature Center on Sunday, April 8, 2018, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The free event is a celebration of mudpuppies – large, permanently aquatic salamanders native to the Detroit River.

Mudpuppypalooza features fun and educational activities such as mask making, games, mudpuppy cookie decorating and a scavenger hunt. The event also includes the opportunity to hear from zookeepers who care for the mudpuppies – also known as slime dogs and snot otters – at the Belle Isle Nature Center, while learning about the species and the DZS’s conservation efforts on its behalf.

In 2006, the DZS began a long-term program to monitor the Detroit River mudpuppies, conducting catch-and-release surveys to track and better understand the size and health of local populations. The salamanders are briefly captured, measured, weighed and implanted with small computer chips for identification before being returned to the water. The chemistry of the Detroit River is also tested and logged.

“While not a threatened species, mudpuppies are considered good environmental indicators of pollution and other potentially harmful changes in the ecosystem,” said Dr. Ruth Marcec, DZS director of the National Amphibian Conservation Center. “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, ranging from 8 to 15 inches long. It is typically brownish-gray with dark spots, a yellowish belly and bushy red gills behind its head, which it uses to breathe under water.