City Cast

Once Thriving, Mudpuppies now Need our Help

Simone Alicea
Posted on September 29, 2022   |   Updated on May 26
A mudpuppy walking on rocks

A mudpuppy. (Dr. Todd Pierson / Illinois Department of Natural Resources)

It’s brown, slimy, and adorable — no, we’re not talking about young labradors covered in dirt. We’re talking about the mudpuppy.

What’s a mudpuppy?
It’s an aquatic salamander that lives, among other bodies of water, in Wolf Lake on the city’s far Southeast Side, bordering Indiana.

Why does it need saving?
There used to be so many mudpuppies in Lake Michigan that high schoolers would dissect them in class, the Tribune reported. But in 2010, the species was listed as threatened in Illinois.

The bright side?

Mudpuppies seem to love Wolf Lake, which indicates the water there is relatively healthy. That’s good news in an industrial area often written off as a “degraded wasteland,” Philip Willink, researcher and Association for the Wolf Lake Initiative board president, told Block Club.

How do we save it?

Unlike other species, the mudpuppy is most active in cold weather, and it can’t survive on land. AWLI and Shedd Aquarium are urging people who fish in the lake this fall and winter to put mudpuppies back in the water immediately.“People think that maybe they’re competing with fish for food, which is not the case,” Willink told the Tribune.

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