Asheboro, NC – Hellbenders are giant salamanders with a long history on this planet – more than 65 million years, in fact. These elusive amphibians are nocturnal animals, hunting and feeding at night and living under rocks during the day in streams throughout Appalachia.

Chances are pretty good the average person has never actually seen a hellbender, but now that is about to change at the North Carolina Zoo.

The Zoo opens its new hellbender exhibit on May 8, 2018, at 11 am and the public is invited to attend as part of the Zoo’s regular daily admission. The habitat introduces visitors to the animal and explores their vital role in the ecosystem. To highlight the diversity living in the Appalachian streams of western N.C. there will be a variety of fish species in the habitat, as well.

While hellbenders may be hard to spot, Zoo guests will love the new sculpture that is part of the exhibit.  The Zoo, in partnership with Weiler Woods of Wildlife, will unveil a new sculpture “Hellbender’s Rock” at the grand opening. The carved stone sculpture is by Dale Weiler, a wildlife artist from Tryon, N.C.

Weiler and his wife, Loti Woods, raise money for wildlife conservation through their company. He feels the Zoo is an ideal place for the sculpture because of its strong commitment to conservation.

“Guest will be able to touch a life-sized replica of the live hellbenders in the exhibit,” he said. “It’ll provide maximum exposure to improve awareness of these wonderful animals.”  

Hellbenders, also nicknamed “devil dogs” “snot otters” and “mud devils” are one of the largest salamanders in the U.S., measuring more than 2 feet in length and found in waters throughout the Appalachian mountain range. They are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN due to habitat loss and pollution. Because of their preference for clean streams and rivers, hellbenders are synonymous with the good water quality of a region. 

A team from the North Carolina Zoo is currently working in western N.C. surveying the hellbender population and installing nest boxes to help with breeding as part of a conservation effort.

To see more of Dale’s amazing sculptures and learn about Loti and Dale's conservation adventures, check out To learn more about the North Carolina Zoo and their wildlife conservation initiatives, see  

Want to go?

North Carolina Zoo and Weiler Woods of Wildlife Hellbender Exhibit Opening

Public is invited as part of Zoo’s regular admission

May 8, 2018 11 am

North Carolina Zoo Streamside Exhibit (enter the Zoo through the North America entrance)

The North Carolina Zoo Society is a private, non-profit organization that supports the North Carolina Zoo and conservation. The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, Susi Hamilton, Secretary; Roy Cooper, Governor.