DETROIT, Mich., March 14, 2014 – "Snot otter" and "slime dog" may sound like something kids call each other on the playground, but they're actually alternative names for the mudpuppy – a large, permanently aquatic salamander native to the Detroit River. The Belle Isle Nature Zoo will host an event to celebrate the mudpuppy on Sunday, March 30, 2014, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Mudpuppypalooza will feature fun and educational activities such as mask making, games and mudpuppy cookie decorating. The event will also include zookeeper talks and the opportunity to view mudpuppies up close while learning about the species and conservation efforts on its behalf.

In 2006, the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) embarked on a program to monitor the Detroit River mudpuppies, conducting catch-and-release surveys to track and better understand local mudpuppy populations. Mudpuppies are measured, weighed and implanted with computer chips for identification before being returned to the river.

"While not a threatened species, mudpuppies are considered good environmental indicators of pollution and other potentially detrimental conditions," said DZS Curator of Amphibians Marcy Sieggreen. "The data gathered in our mudpuppy surveys provides a valuable baseline for monitoring the health of the Detroit River ecosystem."

The mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) is the second-largest salamander in the western hemisphere and is considered an important part of Michigan's aquatic ecosystem. Unlike other amphibians, the mudpuppy never forms air-breathing lungs, but rather relies on the bushy red gills behind its head to breathe under water. The slippery salamander is typically brownish-gray with dark spots and a yellowish belly. A mature mudpuppy ranges in size from 8 to 15 inches.

Amphibian conservation groups from around the world have designated 2014 as Year of the Salamander to raise awareness and increase conservation, education and research efforts.