Largest salamander
© UnknownLocal conservation agent recently investigated a Dunklin County resident's discovery of this animal, Missouri's longest salamander.
"What in the world is that? A snake, eel, possibly a salamander?"

These are the questions that likely traveled through the mind of a Dunklin County resident who recently located a strange looking creature in a ditch positioned in the front yard of his home.

According to local Missouri Department of Conservation Agent, Eric Heuring, he recently visited the area residence to exam the animal and found himself, like the homeowner, in awe.

"After arriving at the residence and taking a look at it, I found myself speechless," Heuring said of the strange find.

It turns out that the once unidentified creature is actually Missouri's longest salamander, a Three-toed Amphiuma, growing to more than 30 inches.

According to Heuring, the creature is easy to mistake for a snake, but it has four tiny legs and lacks scales.

"Amphiumas also are called Congo eels or blue eels, but they are amphibians, not fish," Heuring explains.

"Amphiumas have lungs and have to surface the water to breathe. They are aquatic and nocturnal, found living in ditches, sloughs and cypress swamps in 10 counties of southeastern Missouri.

"In rainy weather conditions, one may find the creature crawling around on wet surfaces." Amphiumas come out at night to hunt for crayfish, worms, insects, tadpoles, snails and small fish, according to researchers.

"We live in the northwestern edge of the species' national range, which extends from Texas to Alabama and northward to southeastern Missouri," Heuring said.

"They will bite, but they are not venomous. If you catch one on a hook, or find one in your yard cut the line and leave the animal alone. They are a species of concern in Missouri and protected by law."