Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 21, 2019


Perrin de Jong, (828) 774-5638,

North Carolina Fish, Salamander Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection

995 River Miles of Critical Habitat Recommended for Waterdog, Madtom

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

“These two imperiled North Carolina species aren’t found anywhere else on Earth, so they need protecting now before it’s too late,” said Perrin de Jong, a North Carolina-based staff attorney at the Center. “Endangered Species Act safeguards will help prevent their extinction and benefit the people of North Carolina by restoring clean water to our rivers and streams.”

The Carolina madtom, a small but feisty catfish from the Tar River basin, is proposed for protection as endangered. It has already been lost from more than 75 percent of its range.

The Neuse River waterdog is a permanently aquatic salamander found only in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins. It has been wiped out from 35 percent of its range. Today’s proposal for listing as threatened includes a “4(d) rule” that allows ongoing logging in its habitat if certain management practices are followed.

The Center petitioned for protection of both species under the Act in 2010 and sued the agency in 2018 for failing to make a timely decision on their protection.

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

Approximately 738 river miles are proposed for critical habitat designation for the Neuse River waterdog. About 257 river miles are being proposed as critical habitat for the Carolina madtom.

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.

Carolina madtom
Carolina madtom photo courtesy USFWS. Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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