Mudpuppy

Necturus maculosus

IdentificationPhoto by Kiley Briggs

The Mudpuppy is our only completely aquatic salamander, and our largest. In Vermont, individuals measuring up to 14 inches long have been reported.

Juvenile Mudpuppies have broad yellowish stripes. As adults, they become all brown with black blotches. Their tail is laterally compressed (like a fish) and their snout is broad and squared.  They have feathery external gills that billow out in water to gather oxygen.

Their eggs are attached one at a time to the underside of rocks or logs.  Mudpuppies are remarkably active during the winter and are occasionally caught by anglers while ice fishing.  Since large larval Spring Salamanders are found in streams and have external gills, they are sometimes confused with young Mudpuppies, but Spring Salamanders are not striped (young Mudpuppies are) and larval Spring Salamanders live in cold and rocky mountain streams.

Records in Vermont of Necturus maculosus (Mudpuppy)

[ click image to zoom | download printable PDF ]

Range/Habitat

They live their lives usually near cover at depths of up to 60 feet in Lake Champlain, the Connecticut River and some of their tributaries. They may move upstream or to shorelines to shallower water to lay their eggs.

They are native to Lake Champlain but it is assumed that they were introduced to the Connecticut River watershed.  TFM treatments for the purpose of controlling sea lampreys in Lake Champlain have killed many Mudpuppies.

Status

The Mudpuppy is a species of special concern in Vermont. This species has a state natural heritage rank of S2 (rare) and has been designated a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (high priority) in Vermont’s Wildlife Action Plan. Please report all sightings of this species in Vermont. Take photos if possible. Even historic sighting information is useful.

Additional Photos

Photo by VT Herp Atlas  Photo by Rich Kirn Photo by Rich Kirn Photo by Kelly Stettner Photo by Mark Ferguson

More Info

Species summary written by Ariel K. McK. Burgess.

In the Media

Howard, Zach. 2011. Mudpuppy salamander fails to make Vermont endangered list.  Reuters  (October 28, 2011). Available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mudpuppy-vermont/mudpuppy-salamander-fails-to-make-vermont-endangered-list-idUSTRE79R5YL20111028 (accessed December 11, 2017).

Johnson, Tim. 2009. Mudpuppies killed off. Burlington Free Press (October 9, 2009), 1C, 8C. Also available as PDF with pictures.

__________. 2009. Lampricide kills hundreds of salamanders in Lamoille River. Times Argus (October 9, 2009). Available as PDF printed from Times Argus site, text-only PDF and with pictures and ads as it appeared online, PDF with pictures (accessed October 16, 2009).