Hellbenders are definitely an underdog species. They are misunderstood and unfortunately losing the battle to thrive in our Western North Carolina streams. So we jump at the chance to bring more awareness to this magnificent creature. How might you ask? Bold Life magazine wants to do  an article called “Helping the Underdog” featuring us! You can read the whole article here.

We always look forward to picking up our monthly copy of Bold Life magazine at our coffee co-op. It is an opportunity to catch up on local cultural events, people and art in the news, and food and music happenings.

So we are honored to be included in this month’s issue. Here is how the article lays out. Pretty cool.


Bold Life’s article “Helping the Underdog”

Weiler Woods for Wildlife is Featured Discussing Hellbenders in Bold Life

In the interview, we first discuss protecting hellbenders, the largest aquatic salamander in the US growing to over 2 feet. They live in fast moving, clean rivers from New York to Alabama including our Western NC streams. The article then highlights the work the NC Zoo is doing to provide habitat for hellbenders.  Concrete nest boxes are being installed in rivers where hellbenders are thought to live. It is one very important way to help these giant salamanders.


An Eastern hellbender. Photo by David Herasimtschuk

When we first started talking to Bold Life, we knew we wanted to focus on the hellbender. It is threatened by habitat loss and unknown to many folks, even ones from around Western North Carolina where they live. Lauren Stepp, the author of the article writes from her heart.  Her focus? Our passion to protect wildlife and how hellbenders fit our mission.

Protecting the Underdog, Hellbenders


Dale helping install a hellbender nest box

Wanting to talk to an expert who protects hellbenders in the wild, we put Lauren in touch with Dustin Smith. He is the Curator of Amphibians at the NC Zoo and a hellbender expert. Dustin also works with a number of groups installing and monitoring hellbender nest boxes throughout Western NC. The boxes improve their habitat in rivers and it is really fun to help intall them, wetsuits, waders and all.

Next, Karin Strickland arrives to take photos and we have so much fun getting to know her. She captures us perfectly in front of Dale’s studio.  Plus some great photos of Dale’s rock pile and sculpting tools appear in the article.

Bold Life also uses a photo by my sister, Corrie Woods. Corrie often helps us document the progress on various sculptures including “Hellbender’s Rock”, Dale’s sculpture of guess what? A hellbender. It is now installed at the NC Zoo in a newly renovated hellbender/native fish exhibit.


Loti & Dale. Photo Karin Strickland

We hope you enjoy the article.  We always love being interviewed about our passion to help protect wildlife. And while hellbenders certainly are the underdog, they stand a fighting chance if we all try and protect them and their habitat. And the best way to help? Spread the word about them to everyone who will listen.


“Hellbender’s Rock” by Dale Weiler. Photo Corrie Woods

Other Articles in the July Issue

And be sure to read the other articles in the magazine. We love the feature on  Amy Feldman & Theresa Granito growing local heirloom garlic (which we have love).  There is also an article on on a white squirrel eating out of a bird feeder. Life in the Carolina mountains is grand! Thank you Bold Life.