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Hunt for hellbenders is part of broader plan to protect them

ATLANTA (AP) — Researchers are donning wetsuits and wading into north Georgia streams to conduct an underwater search for giant salamanders known as hellbenders.

The effort is part of a survey designed to get a sense of the state of the hellbender in the north Georgia mountains.

WABE Radio reports that scientists have come to realize that the big salamanders might be in peril — and the federal government is now considering whether to protect them.

Hellbenders can grow to nearly 2 feet (.6 meters) long and might live as long as 20 or 30 years, spending much of their time beneath rocks in cold, clean streams.

They have flat, round heads and a wide mouth that makes them look like they’re smiling.

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Information from: WABE-FM, http://www.wabe.org/

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