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Environmentalists concerned over invasive snails appearing in the Salt River

Posted at 4:35 PM, Jul 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-21 01:39:49-04

A South American intruder is taking over some of Arizona’s waterways. The apple snail is multiplying at an alarming rate in the Lower Salt River.
It might be slow moving, but it's fast eating. The apple snail consumes just about everything in its path from vegetation to eggs and other native species.
According to Nichole Engelmann, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the invasive species makes for a tough environment for its native counterparts.
“They do really outcompete a lot of these keystone species that we have in Arizona,” said Engelmann.
They’re not only damaging to the environment but potentially dangerous to you, as well. The apple snail is known to carry a parasite that causes meningitis in humans.
“We're really just hoping to keep this ecosystem functioning as healthy as we can,” said Engelmann.
Arizona Game and Fish has been hitting the waterways to eliminate as many of these intruders as they can but Jeff Sorensen, with AZGFD, says they can use some help.
Paddleboarders and kayakers traveling down the Salt River can help by carefully knocking down the egg masses that the snails lay in the reeds along the bank. The eggs are easily spotted, looking like bright pink bubble gum wads on the weeds.
“The egg masses get in the water they're going to drown, and they're not going to viable anymore,” said Sorensen.
It's a seemingly insurmountable task; a single female snail can lay up to 15,000 eggs in a year. On one of AZGFD’s latest surveys, they destroyed an estimated 1,000,000 eggs, but if we want to win the battle the time is now.
“We might be able to have enough pressure so that these guys might not be able to successfully reproduce for future generations,” said Sorensen.
If you remove adult or juvenile apple snails from the water, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water to prevent contracting the parasite that could cause meningitis.