Prove your humanity

This story comes from our partners at WPSU.

Pennsylvania’s state amphibian is back in the limelight – this time to support the Wild Resource Conservation Program.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has released a new license plate featuring the eastern hellbender salamander.

The plate costs $41, $15 of which goes toward the survey, research, management and conservation of natural resources.

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Republican State Senator Gene Yaw was the prime sponsor of the bill to designate the hellbender as the state amphibian in 2019.

“I can’t think of a better symbol for the Pennsylvania environment than the hellbender to show our commitment to clean water. A hellbender is like the canary in the coal mine,” Yaw said.

Hellbenders need especially clean water to live in. Yaw said this license plate serves a good cause… even if its subject matter isn’t too pretty.

“I don’t care how you cut it. They’re ugly. They’re really ugly. They are variously called other things: snot otter, mudpuppy, Allegheny alligator, but they are really unique creatures,” Yaw said.

The design is similar to the default Pennsylvania license plate with the blue and yellow ribbons on the top and bottom, but this special plate has a small square picture of the state salamander on the left.

Currently, the eastern hellbender is not considered threatened or endangered, even though 40% of known populations have died out and more are in decline.

In September, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider the eastern hellbenders’ endangered species status, which would make it harder for developers to build near their habitat.