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5/17/17- An Aquatic Nightmare

By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

I’m going to switch gears today and let you in on some news about a creature that does not look threatening, but is actually destroying Alabama’s water resources. The Amazonian apple snail is an exotic invasive species that has been found in many creeks and small waterways in Alabama. This snail, although not very large, is responsible for damage in water systems and also some terrestrial damage as well.

It takes many kinds of people to make this world go ‘round. Some people like the furrier companions in life such as cats and dogs while others like their pets in a glass tank or even in a wire cage. Whatever the case may be, you assume a responsibility when you take on a pet, especially when it is an exotic species that does not belong outside of its respective tank or cage. Unfortunately, Amazonian apple snails have established a flourishing population in Alabama’s waterways due to aquarium owners releasing the snails illegally. According to Alabama’s state regulation, it is unlawful to release any aquatic creature into water’s that they did not originally come from unless written consent from a government agency (such as Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries) is granted. Due to the fact that this law has been ignored, the snail is now destroying many miles of aquatic vegetation and habitats along water systems in lower Alabama, especially around Mobile County.

It is believed that the adult snails outgrew their tanks and their owner(s) released them into a pond in Langan Park in Mobile County. That pond flows into Three Mile Creek and the severity of the situation grows from there. The snails have survived the coldest temperatures in the winter months, although it is believed that they are not cold tolerant since they are native to a tropical region. Once established, the female apple snail lays clutches of eggs multiple times (2000 eggs every two weeks!!!!) These eggs are bright pink and are usually found on partially submerged vegetation. The babies can start laying eggs at only two months old (sounds like the feral hog of the water).

Biologists have tried trapping and eradicating with copper sulfate, the chemical used to kill algae in swimming pools, but nothing seems to be stopping the exponential growth of the apple snail. Biologists have seen some response to the chemical and manual removal, but it seems that they are multiplying as fast as they are dying. Recently, apple snails have been spotted as far up as Andalusia! So what’s the big stink? Well, the snails consume all the aquatic vegetation until there is nothing left and the once thriving wetland becomes useless to native wildlife. It is even believed that they are destroying agricultural crops located near water ways.

The moral of the story is this: don’t release exotic animals where they don’t belong! Granted, no one would ever think a snail could cause so much damage, but they do and they give a new meaning to a “snail’s pace”. Many agencies have dedicated a lot of time and effort conserving Alabama’s wetlands and they are highly motivated to continue eradicating these snails until there is not a single one left.

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By: Meaghan English

My name is Meaghan English, a wildlife specialist with TrueSouth. I graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management and I have grown up with a passion for hunting. I knew from an early age that I was not only interested in the harvesting of wildlife, but I was also very interested in their biology and management. I decided that I not only wanted to be a wildlife enthusiast, I want to be an educated wildlife specialist. I will be using that grand education as a member of the TrueSouth team contributing wildlife blog articles!

My first hunting memory flashes back to when I was six or seven years old. Like any other Saturday during deer season, my dad had told my mom to get me ready because we were going hunting. Of course I was ecstatic! I was not ecstatic about the hair bow my mom made me wear with my camouflage (she wanted everyone to know I was in fact a fashionable girl). The entire way to Perdue Hill, Alabama, my dad told me that today would be the first day I would actually shoot my first deer and I knew I was ready. We pulled up to the camp, unloaded, and fed all the “camp cats”. Before we headed to our stand, I had spotted three kittens that I simply could not leave behind so I stuffed them in my jacket. After walking what seemed like five miles, we finally made it to the “Pressbox stand” (with my smuggled kittens) and sat down. Dad continuously pestered me to be quiet, but I wasn’t that worried about shooting a deer, I had kittens! Eventually, the sun began to sink behind the trees and a spike (without olfactory senses) entered the field. When it was safe to quietly move, dad handed me the gun and I handed him my three kittens. I slowly pulled the gun up and placed my cheek against the stock. Dad told me to breathe slowly and pull the trigger when I was ready. Sure enough, I pulled the trigger and the spike hit the ground. We high-fived, exchanged kittens again, and climbed down to see the kill. It certainly was not a wall hanger, but a huge chapter in my life was started that night. My dad and I still hunt together to this day and we practice quality deer management at all times.

My ultimate goal is to provide clients with a survey of flora and fauna that currently inhabit a specific tract of land and, if desired, how to properly manage that land for the species that are found there. All feedback is greatly appreciated and I look forward to working with you!

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