With names like “snot otter” and “slime dog,” the mudpuppy needs all the help it can get. This may be why this Detroit River native and aquatic salamander has its own day at the Belle Isle Nature Zoo.
Called Mudpuppypalooza, the day will use activities like mask-making games and mudpuppy cookie decorating to combine fun with information. Those in attendance can even get an up close tutorial about the animal from zookeepers about them and conservation efforts on their behalf. The annual event will be held form 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 5.
It all began 10 years ago when the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) started a catch-and-release program to study mudpuppies. Back then they simply studied and weighed the creatures to learn more about them and their habitat and then let them return to the Detroit River.
“While not a threatened species, mudpuppies are considered good environmental indicators of pollution and other potentially harmful changes in the ecosystem,” said DZS Chief Life Sciences Officer Scott Carter. “The information gathered in our mudpuppy surveys provides a valuable baseline for monitoring the health of the Detroit River ecosystem.”
This Detroit River native is not only important to Michigan and its ecosystem, but has notoriety as home to mudpuppy, the second-largest salamander in the western hemisphere.
Necturus maculosus, as the mudpuppy is scientifically classified, interestingly has lungs but depends on bushy gills to breathe underwater. These duel breathers can be identified by their brownish-grey hue, yellow belly, and dark spots. They are between 8 and 15 inches long.
The Belle Isle Nature Zoo is located at the east end of Belle Isle near the Blue Heron Lagoon. The Nature Zoo is open Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through March and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through October. It’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission is free. However, a State of Michigan Recreation Passport is required for personal vehicles to enter Belle Isle State Park. For more information, visit www.detroitzoo.org.