What the heck is it?!
It's a mudpuppy! Mudpuppies are actually salamanders, large, permanently aquatic salamanders.
Unlike their amphibian cousins, mudpuppies never form air-breathing lungs. They rely on the bushy red gills behind their heads to breathe under water, like fish. They are usually brownish to grayish with dark spots and a yellowish belly. A feature that allows you to distinguish a mudpuppy from other larval (immature) salamanders is that they only have four toes on each foot. Young mudpuppies have a yellow stripe on each side of their backs. With no scales on their bodies, they are slimy and difficult to hold in your hands. Adults range in size from 8 to 15 inches, although there is a 19.13 inch mudpuppy on record!
These salamanders may be found in most water bodies in Michigan. They prefer shallow waters with plenty of places to hide, but have been found in depths of nearly a hundred feet.
The mudpuppy's diet consists of crayfish, snails, insect larvae, worms and small fish. Although they will eat fish eggs, there is no evidence that they have an impact on fish populations.
The mating season is in late fall, but the females do not lay their eggs until the following spring. Between 50 and 100 eggs are deposited in a nest cavity under a rock or other object. It takes 1 to 2 months for the eggs to hatch. Mudpuppies mature in 4 to 6 years and can live to be more than 20 years old.
Aside from their slimy skin and strange appearance, mudpuppies are an important part of Michigan's aquatic ecosystem. The mudpuppy is listed as a threatened species in Michigan which protects them from all harvest.