Love To Stack Rocks? Don’t Be a Hellbender Homewrecker!



Hellbenders are the largest salamanders in the US. Photo: David Herasimtschuk

You may be a hellbender home wrecker and not even know it. But first what the hell is a hellbender, also affectionately called a snot otter?  This saga begins as a love story.  A what?

Stacking Rocks


Stacking rocks can be a death sentence for hellbenders. Photo: Corrie Woods

After hiking one day, my sister Corrie Woods, who happens to be the marketing brilliance behind Lichty Guitars, posted a photo on Facebook. While wandering through one of our North Carolina forests, she came across stacks of rocks in a river.

After posting a picture of the rock stacks, a friend of ours commented on why she and her husband stopped stacking stones. But why, we wondered, as we always thought it was cool to see the piles of zen-like rocks.

“The Last Dragons”

 Not only did her comment catch our attention but she included a link to a video that knocked our rocks off.  You’ll see a stone sculptor theme throughout our blogs. Catchy, yes?

The video, “The Last Dragons-Protecting Appalachia’s Hellbenders” introduced us to an incredible prehistoric salamander, the hellbender,  which lives in our rivers along the East coast of the US.


Hellbenders are only found in the eastern states of the US. Illustration: Peppermint Narwhal

Falling In Love


Dale checking out a hellbender at the WNC Nature Center.

Once we watched the video, we were in love, very much like the first time Dale and I met. In love with a giant salamander!

Then we discovered a hellbender lives at the WNC Nature Center in Asheville, NC, and of course, we had to go see him. And yes, we confirmed it is a him.

We learned that hellbenders grow up to 2 feet long and their populations have significantly declined for many reasons.  One reason is stone stacking.

You see, hellbenders live under rocks in rivers. And they love their rock homes and rarely stray far. Move their rock, they can literally die. To learn more about hellbenders, read our blog Hellbenders.

Hellbender Sculpture


Dale Weiler’s sculpture “Hellbenders Rock”.

The next thing we knew, Dale was looking at a big, old piece of alabaster he had in his rock pile. After studying the rock, he announced: “there is a hellbender in there”.

Fast forward 6 months with a lot of stone chiseling, grinding, sanding and stone dust, Dale was finished with his sculpture. And by the way, it is named “Hellbenders Rock”. How fitting!

Please Save My Hellbender Home!


Please don’t stack rocks. Photo: Tom Henrich/Flicker

So if you happen to be hiking, the hellbenders politely request you not move their rocks. You really don’t want to be labeled a  homewrecker, do you?

And if you are visiting a nature center or zoo, see if they have hellbenders. You will definitely impress your neighbors with photos of this cool looking animal.

And to see “Hellbenders Rock”, visit The Streamside exhibit at the NC Zoo.