Giant Japanese salamander

Giant Japanese salamander

There are salamanders, and there is the giant Japanese salamander, a slug-like behemoth that is nocturnal and rarely encountered by humans–and for that humans should be thankful.

These legendary critters, which can weigh to 55 pounds and measure 5 feet long, reside in swift-flowing rivers and almost never stray far from their watery confines.

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However, one of the slimy amphibians broke tradition recently and decided to stroll down a street in broad daylight in Kyoto, Japan. (See the video clip.)

"Probably on its way to an elementary school playground buffet of children," joked Tokyo Desu.

Police were summoned and roped off the street, and eventually managed to coax the creature back to its home waters of the Kamo River, leaving Kyoto residents to breathe easier.

Seriously, though, giant Japanese salamanders are considered by most people to be harmless. They have very poor eyesight, and feed mostly on fish, crabs, mice, and large insects.

However, they are opportunistic and some might recall myths that portray them as child-stealing monsters.

They can be aggressive, if bothered, and boast powerful jaws, so those who encounter them are advised to keep a safe distance. (Click here to watch Jeremy Wade of Animal Planet's "River Monsters" wrestle one with his bare hands.)

They're also victims of deforestation and decades of hunting (now illegal), and are listed as a threatened species.

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