(WFRV) – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking the public to report any observations of mudpuppies they may accidentally catch while ice fishing this winter.

Mudpuppies are Wisconsin’s only fully aquatic salamanders and can be found in streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes year-round.

Due to the amphibian’s elusive behavior, surveying can be difficult and labor-intense. However, because mudpuppies can be a common bycatch during the winter ice-fishing season, officials are hoping that anglers will share their mudpuppy observations with the DNR this winter.

Data collected from these sightings will help determine the distribution and range of the species statewide.

The DNR encourages those who catch a mudpuppy while fishing to snap a picture of it, then gently remove the fishing hook and release it back into the water.

“Observations from the public are incredibly valuable,” said Lena Carlson, DNR Conservation Biologist. “Every report allows the DNR to have a better idea of how mudpuppies are doing in the state. This information will show us where we will need to direct future management efforts to help declining populations.”

Once considered a common amphibian species in Wisconsin, evidence suggests that populations may be declining.

They have been listed as a species of special concern in Minnesota and are currently threatened in both Iowa and Illinois.

Wisconsin’s mudpuppy populations have not been studied extensively, and there are still many unanswered questions.

Mudpuppy observations and photographs can be submitted to DNRherptiles@wisconsin.gov