As a result of the last two postings of Hellbender videos I thought I would chip in with a giant salamander story.
In the 1920s Frank L. Griffiths was out hunting deer near the head of the New River in California’s Trinity Alps. While looking into the water he spotted five salamanders at the bottom of the lake. Good going, you might think, spotting salamanders in the water; they are, after all, small little critters. Well, that might be the normal case but these were no common-or-garden salamanders. No, these were giant salamanders and as such were slightly bigger than the norm. Actually, they were considerably bigger than the norm: Griffiths stated the salamanders he observed measured between 5 and 9 feet long. Astounded or not by his sighting he nevertheless managed to hook one of the salamanders but not too unpredictably, he was unable to drag it out of the water. Hardly surprising, considering the size.
In 1948 biologist Thomas L. Rodgers made four unsuccessful trips to the area looking for a trace of these giant salamanders but it would not be until 1960 that animal handler Vern Harden claimed to see a dozen huge salamanders in Hubbard Lake. He claimed to have hooked one of these giants but had to release it because of a threatening snowstorm that was closing in. However, before letting the creature go he measured it, getting a measurement over 8 feet long. Impressive stuff, but then so are the tales of all fishermen who tell you about the one that got away.
Perhaps there are giant salamanders still awaiting discovery somewhere in the Trinity Alps. One thing is for certain: you really wouldn’t want to be licking one if you found it.