Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 8, 2021


Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681,

North Carolina Catfish, Salamander Protected Under Endangered Species Act

Carolina Madtom, Neuse River Waterdog Gain 1,036 Miles of Protected Habitat

ASHEVILLE, N.C.— Following a petition and lawsuits from the Center for Biological Diversity spanning a decade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today finalized protection for the Carolina madtom catfish and Neuse River waterdog salamander under the Endangered Species Act.

“The Endangered Species Act is the most effective tool available to save plants and animals from extinction, so it’s good news that these special North Carolina creek critters now have the habitat safeguards they need to survive,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center.

The Carolina madtom, a small catfish from the Tar River basin, will be listed as endangered. More than 80% of the streams where it was once found are so degraded that the fish has already vanished from them or is not expected to persist.

The Neuse River waterdog, an aquatic salamander found only in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins, has been eliminated from 35% of its range. An additional 25% of its historical streams are in such poor condition that the waterdog is unlikely to survive there. The salamander will be listed as threatened with a “4(d) rule” that allows ongoing logging in its habitat if certain management practices are followed to protect streams from sediment pollution.

“Protecting streams and rivers for small fish and salamanders also helps protect the healthy water quality that people need for drinking water and recreation,” said Curry.

The Center and allies petitioned for protection of both species under the Act in 2010.

Both species are threatened by water pollution and by sediment that fills in spaces between and under rocks, which the animals need for nest sites and to hunt bottom-dwelling insects like mayfly and dragonfly larvae. Water pollution from development, logging and factory farms has contributed to range losses for both species.

Protected critical habitat for the Neuse River waterdog includes 779 river miles in Craven, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Greene, Halifax, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Nash, Orange, Person, Pitt, Wake, Warren, Wayne and Wilson counties.

Protected critical habitat for the Carolina madtom includes 257 river miles in Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Johnston, Jones, Nash, Orange, Vance, Warren and Wilson counties.

The Carolina madtom is a stocky fish with three dark, saddle-shaped patches along its back and a black stripe along its side. Its scientific name, Noturus furiosus, translates to the “furious madtom” for the powerful sting its pectoral spines deliver to would-be predators. Madtoms are among the most ferociously armed catfish in North America.

The Neuse River waterdog is spotted with red, flame-like gills and can grow up to 9 inches long. It has a voracious appetite, and both parents actively guard their nests.

The Center is working to gain protection for hundreds of freshwater animals in the southeastern United States. The region is home to more species of salamanders, crayfish and freshwater mussels than anywhere else in the world, but many of them are at risk of extinction.

Carolina madtom. Photo courtesy of USFWS. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

center locations