How to Spot a Mudpuppy
Mudpuppies are large, bizarre, aquatic salamanders with feathery gills on their heads. In addition to looking different from other salamanders, mudpuppies are found in a completely different habitat as well. While they are secretive and nocturnal, they are more common than you may think. This guide will instruct you on how to find one in its natural habitat.
Finding a Location
Determine the mudpuppies' range.Mudpuppies are found throughout much of the Midwestern United States, and particularly the Great Lakes Basin. They are limited by the Appalachian Mountains to the east, but follow river systems outside their normal range. They reach:
- West into eastern Kansas and Oklahoma,
- East into New York State,
- South into Louisiana,
- North into Southern Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.
Check local restrictions.In some regions, mudpuppies may be endangered or threatened, and federally protected as a result. Verify with your state's Department of Natural Resources if a permit is required, or if they are protected. In addition, make sure you are not within a state or national park, as it may be illegal to catch anything within the park.
Find a body of water.Mudpuppies can be found in lakes, streams, rivers, and large ponds. As they are completely aquatic, the body of water must be permanent, and cannot be manmade. The more isolated or undisturbed the better, due to less activity and pollution.
Examine the water.Mudpuppies, like any species, live best under certain conditions. A body of water that meets these conditions is most likely to have mudpuppies in it. Here are some attributes preferred by these salamanders:
- Mudpuppies require cover. During the day, they will hide underneath rocks, logs, and plants at the bottom of the water source. This cover is necessary for their survival.
- Mudpuppies require clean freshwater. You will not find mudpuppies in polluted environments or salt water. They are very fragile, and susceptible to manmade chemicals in the water.
- Mudpuppies prefer cold water. Colder water holds more oxygen, and allows them to breathe easier. As such, they can sometimes be caught while ice fishing in the Great Lakes.
- The depth of the body of water required changes with water temperature. They can range from being found at 12" (30.5 cm) to 88' (27 m).
- Mudpuppies can be found year round, but will retreat into deeper water as temperatures increase in summertime. In spring and fall, they will be more likely to be seen as a result.
Finding the Mudpuppy
Acquire bait.Mudpuppies, like fish, can be caught with a multitude of bait. The staple of their diet is crayfish, but other items such as earthworms, snails, and small fish will be accepted as well. As opportunistic predators, mudpuppies will eat most anything that they can fit in their mouths.
Cloud the water.Once at a location, you must be aware that mudpuppies are usually nocturnal. Because of this, they will only come out at night, or if the water is murky enough to diffuse the sun's rays. Either go when the day is foggy or cloudy, or be able to use mud or even peanut butter to muddy the water.
Move slowly and calmly in the water.Mudpuppies make up for their poor eyesight with a powerful sense of smell and an ability to sense vibrations in the water using a lateral line. Any sudden movements may cause them to retreat deeper back into their hideaway.
Leave the cover alone.While lifting rocks and logs on the lake or river bed may seem like a quick way to spot a mudpuppy, this will most likely cause it to hide deeper in cover. Even worse, it has the potential to injure or kill the mudpuppy if care isn't taken in moving debris. Leave the habitat the way you found it.
Use a net.Using a net is one of the cheapest methods to capture a mudpuppy, but one of the most careful. A fishing net can be held against the bottom of the water, and if baited and held in murky water, the mudpuppy may walk in to gain a meal. After the mudpuppy enters, quickly lift the net in an arc out of the water.
Use a minnow trap.A minnow trap is a device similar to a funnel, leading into a cage with bait inside. Small fish, crayfish, and occasionally mudpuppies wander in, and cannot exit. A mesh or wire trap works better than the version made from 2 liter bottles, due to the increased water flow and ease of entrance. After placing the baited minnow trap among cover on the bed of the body of water, leave it and return after a day, and periodically return and re-bait the trap.
Let it go.If you do catch a mudpuppy, be sure to release it after taking pictures or examining it. Mudpuppies are quite difficult to keep in captivity, and can be easily sickened if not kept according to precise conditions. In addition, their populations are currently declining among parts of their range, and may be federally protected. Releasing it allows the population to remain for future generations.
Don't be discouraged.Mudpuppies are hard to find, and may be endangered in parts of their range. If you cannot find a mudpuppy using these methods, try a different location, bait, or time of year. The mudpuppy might not always be caught, but when it is, it is a memorable experience.
QuestionI found a clump of mudpuppy eggs which may have 100 or so. What is the best way to raise them from larvea to adult as pets?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFirst off, you will need a very large tank; most likely somewhere between the 200 to 300 gallon range and will need to be placed in a wet or damp area, most desirably underwater in a blacked out area. When they hatch, give them plenty of places to hide and make sure to feed the juvenile mudpuppys diced worms or other annelids. When they reach adulthood, you can start feeding them smaller fish, such as minnows, but they are known to eat crayfish mostly in the wild.Thanks!
QuestionIf I catch a mudpuppy or two, what are the precise conditions to keep them as pets?Josh GrangerCommunity AnswerYou'll need water and heat lamps because they are cold-blooded. Feed them worms, snails, or even crayfish, but make sure the food is not frozen, otherwise the mud puppy will have a lot of trouble finding its scent.Thanks!
QuestionCan you find mudpuppies in Oklahoma?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes you can! They are in the more Southeastern area of Oklahoma and are mainly found in damp logs and other rotting plants or hiding ares, but are most likely found in slow moving streams and ponds or other bodies of water.Thanks!
- Although rare, ice fishing may result in the capture of a mudpuppy, due to their increased activity during winter months.
- Crayfish are their preferred prey, but will take anything from goldfish to dog food.
- Mudpuppies may be legally protected depending on your location. Check with your local wildlife department to determine if a permit is required to disturb mudpuppies, or if it is legal at all.
- Mudpuppies may be found in fast moving or deep water. Take care and know your limits regarding water.
- Keep your hands where you can see them. Reaching into a hole you cannot see may disturb venomous snakes, snapping turtles, or other creatures.
- Mudpuppies have sensitive skin, and can be harmed through touch. Please take care to not use insect repellent, hand sanitizer, or any other chemicals if you touch a mudpuppy.
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