Campus Wild

Day 2: Saving the Hellbender



Don't forget to tag #WildlifeWeek on social media.

  • Share: Watch the Hellbenders Rock YouTube Video. Be a Hellbender Hero: Sing along to the chorus of the Hellbenders Rock Video, post a video to Instagram or Facebook. It will be even better if a group of friends joins you!

  • Eat: During Wildlife Week, try to eat at least one meatless meal per day. To save time, when you cook a meatless meal make double, and then you can use the leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. The Wildlife Week Calendar gives you suggestions to make every meal meatless, with simple recipes and tips for quick and efficient Earth-friendly eating.

  • Act: Share a photo on social media of a veggie meal you've eaten today.

Featured Wildlife: Hellbender

Hellbenders are the largest amphibians in North America, can grow up to 2 feet long and secrete toxic slime from their skin to ward off predators. This strictly aquatic salamander is North America’s largest amphibian. And, like other salamanders, it needs clean, well-oxygenated water to survive.

Many of the streams where hellbenders once lived are now too polluted from agriculture and urbanization to support the species. Hunting, disease, fish stocking and loss of genetic diversity also pose major threats. Animal agriculture and factory farms contribute to the water pollution and climate change that threaten hellbenders, and as a consequence, the hellbender is facing drastic population declines across its range in the eastern United States. The subspecies Ozark hellbender was placed on the endangered species list in 2013, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still considering the eastern hellbender for listing under a settlement agreement that isn’t due until 2018. Meanwhile the population of the hellbender has continued to decline at an alarming rate (9).

#WildlifeWeek Day 2: Saving the Hellbender

And this decline is in direct relation to overconsumption of animal agriculture, and the resulting pollution, habitat loss and disease. If everyone on the globe ate like the average American, global meat consumption would increase by 320 percent, since Americans eat more meat per capita than nearly any other nation. A future in which Americans continue this level of meat consumption isn’t pretty for people, the planet or wildlife, which is why the hellbender, a not-so-pretty species, perfectly represents the problem.


  • Factory farm pollution
  • Disease
  • Fish stocking
  • Loss of genetic diversity


Key Threat From Meat Production: Factory Farms: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)

Factory farms — also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) — are industrial facilities where meat-production operations, farmed animals, feed, manure, urine and dead animals are tightly confined in one unsanitary and environmentally devastating space (10,11). Factory farms are responsible for massive amounts of waste and pollution, including nearly 500 million tons of manure per year. To put that in perspective: 500 million tons of manure is more than three times the total of all human waste produced in one year in the United States (12).

Not only do factory farms consistently fail to confine the staggering amount of waste they produce — there are minimal laws requiring them to treat or clean up their mess, which has devastating consequences for the environment (13).

Untreated manure containing chemicals and active antibiotics is pumped into open-air pools or dumped on nearby lands (8). Factory farms have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states, contaminated groundwater in 17 states, and degraded many wetlands, lakes and estuaries (8). Meat production is responsible for 80 percent of all antibiotic use in the United States and 37 percent of pesticide use, much of which is then washed into waterways and other wildlife habitats through improper handling of manure and agricultural runoff (8). These antibiotics also foster microbial cross-resistance to strains that can infect humans.

Animal agriculture not only pollutes water, but also consumes it in massive quantities; every pound of California beef requires about 2,464 gallons of water to produce, and in total, 50 percent of all consumable water used in the United States goes toward meat production (14). Factory farms and animal agriculture thus represent an incredibly inefficient use of water and land resources.

For more information see the Center’s work to protect the hellbender.