FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is seeking public reports to get a better idea of the population numbers of Mudpuppies across the state.

Mudpuppies are aquatic salamanders that spend their entire life underwater in Indiana’s lakes and streams. They can be identified by the feathery gills on the back of their head, and have four legs.

They are currently listed as a “Species of Special Concern” because the DNR believes their population has declined in Indiana. Most of their reports come from anglers who catch them while fishing, so earlier this year they put out a call for reports on Facebook to enlist the help of the public.

“For a situation like this with the Mudpuppy that’s kind of difficult to sample for, it’s actually a little bit tricky to find these things,” said Nate Engbrecht, Herpetologist with the Indiana DNR. “For us, at this stage, we’re trying to get information about where they occur in the state, or simply what rivers or lakes they actually occur in. So when you’re talking about wildlife conservation and trying to properly manage a species at the very basic level, you just have to find out where it still occurs, and where it exists.”

Mudpuppies are found in natural lakes, rivers, and streams. The DNR believes the possible decline in the Mudpuppy population could be due to the loss of these habitats.

“I don’t think we know for certain but as rivers become more silted or polluted, they can affect the fish, or mussels or salamanders living in there,” added Engbrecht. “So water quality was probably a big variable on that front, which itself is kind of a form of habitat loss in a way.”

Engbrecht adds that late winter and early spring is the best time to spot Mudpuppies while they are in shallower water and the water is still clear. Once summer arrives they head to deeper water.

You can submit your report and photos of Mudpuppies to HerpSurveys@dnr.IN.gov