If you’ve seen one in the Cedar Valley, consider yourself lucky. They are mostly nocturnal, they never leave the water, and unlike almost every other reptile or amphibian in Iowa, this one is actually active in winter.

The Mudpuppy is the largest of the seven species of salamander found in Iowa, and it lives in large streams or ponds. They are the only entirely aquatic salamanders in the state and they can get rather large --- up to 16 inches long. They also have an average lifespan of around 11 years.

At one time they were listed as endangered, but they are now considered threatened in Iowa, and cannot legally be collected or killed.

They are carnivorous and will eat almost anything they can get into their mouths, including; insects, mollusks, small fish, amphibians, earthworms, and spiders.

The reason they have been called a ‘Water Dragon’ is that the sides of the head feature bright red bushy gills, giving them the look somewhat resembling a dragon.

They are also called waterdogs, because they are one of only a few salamanders that make noise. They get their name from the squeaky sounds that they make that some say resemble a dog's bark. However, others say that it does not make a noise at all.


Mudpuppies have been found in eastern Iowa along the Mississippi River and some of its tributaries, but they are primarily found in the Eastern United States.

In Black Hawk County, a survey was conducted in 2016 searching for Mudpuppies in the Cedar River. 20 traps were set, which were unsuccessful in collecting or observing mudpuppies near the Cedar-Wapsi (C-57) Bridge.

In 2019, a 14-inch Mudpuppy was caught in Winneshiek County in the Upper Iowa River, according to herpmapper.com. They’ve also been found in Allamakee, Clayton, Webster, Boone, Henry, and Hamilton counties within the past five years.




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