Invasive Amazonian apple snails elude extermination; harder to kill than Rasputin
MOBILE, Alabama — They’ve poisoned them, trapped them and killed their babies.
But the Amazonian apple snails are still here.
Lingering in the pond at Langan Park, in Three Mile Creek and a neighborhood lake in a Spanish Fort subdivision, the invasive pests are proving every bit as tough to eradicate as their reputation suggested they would be.
“We’ve knocked them back quite a bit in the lake. We have surveyed in the creek, and knocked them back quite a bit there, too, just not as well as I’d like,” said Dave Armstrong, with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.
Repeated applications of a copper-based snail poison have killed many adult snails. And herbicides and mowing have helped remove a lot of waterfront vegetation used by the snails for laying eggs, Armstrong said.
The good news is that various efforts seem to have kept the snails out of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. With their voracious appetite for aquatic vegetation, the snails could pose a serious threat to the Delta, which is one of the nation’s largest wetland areas.
Non-native apple snails are a problem now in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. They have been blamed for consuming all of the aquatic vegetation in some wetlands, leaving behind nothing but algae-filled water.
“Thank God we haven’t seen them in the Delta or gotten any reports. I’m waiting for that phone call, but we haven’t gotten it yet,” Armstrong said, adding that he feels a little more optimistic about efforts to contain the snails than he did last year.
“Right now we’re working back into Three Mile Creek, trying to keep as much distance between the snails and the Mobile River. We’re treating the pond in Baldwin monthly. I can’t say we’ve eliminated them there, but we haven’t seen any adults or any egg masses in awhile.”
Armstrong credited the Larose family in the Blakeley Forest subdivision in Spanish Fort with discovering the population in the pond there. The family patrols the shoreline of the small lake by kayak, destroying any eggs they find.
“I feel really good about how things have gone in that pond,” Armstrong said. “I was terrified they were going to come out of the pond and into Bay Minette Basin and Bay Minette Creek. They could have made it to the Delta that way.”
It is believed someone dumped the snails in both Langan Park and Spanish Fort after they grew too large for home aquariums. For decades, the snails were a popular item in pet stores nationwide.
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