As the name implies, mudpuppy's (Necturus maculosus) prefer a habitat of deep, muddy water in large rivers, streams and ponds. They are nocturnal. For these reasons, they are rarely seen. If you were to see a mudpuppy, it would make quite an impression. It has a broad, flat head, square nose and very small eyes. The most noticeable features are the red bushy gills on both sides of its neck. Gills are normally found on larval forms of amphibians, but the adult mudpuppy keeps these gills.
Like the hellbender, their looks are deceiving. Mud puppies are harmless.
Mudpuppies breed from April to June, producing 30 - 190 eggs during the season. The eggs hatch and the larvae remain in the water, feeding on small invertebrates. This larval phase may last weeks or up to 2-3 years before they metamorphose into adults. Adults reach a length of 8 - 18 inches and feed on crayfish, snails, small fish and worms.
The mudpuppy was the center of an Ohio mystery in the early 19th century. Settlers around Scippo Creek in Pickaway County reported seeing several pinkish animals, 6 - 7 feet long, in the water. They also said that they had moose-like horns. Around 1820, there was a drought that dried up much of the water in the area as well as brush fires that destroyed the land. People believed that the animals were wiped out because of these disasters. Similar stories have been told in eastern Atlantic states between 1928 and 1975. Some scientists believe the reports and believe that it might be a large species of mudpuppy.