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Apple Snail Control Efforts Planned at Langan Municipal Park Lake and Threemile Creek in Mobile, Volunteers Welcome
September 29, 2009
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) will begin efforts to control the population of island apple snails that has become established in Langan Municipal Park Lake and Threemile Creek in Mobile, Ala. An initial chemical treatment to kill adult and juvenile snails with an EPA approved formulation of copper sulfate is scheduled to take place during the week beginning Saturday, October 3; weather and stream flow permitting.
Besides being an effective molluscicide, copper sulfate is a material that has historically been used to control algae in swimming pools and fish ponds. The copper sulfate product that will be used is also approved for use in potable water supply lakes. A series of chemical treatments will need to be made in Langan Municipal Park Lake and in portions of Threemile Creek. Control measures will also include trapping adult and juvenile snails and the manual removal and destruction of apple snail eggs from these locations. Egg removal and trapping efforts will take place both before and after the chemical treatments.
The island apple snail has been introduced outside of its native range into many locations around the world. It has often proven to be an invasive species with the capacity to cause severe damage to native wildlife habitats and agricultural crops. It is one of three closely related South American aquatic snail species that have been widely sold for use as aquarium pets. The spiral shell of the island apple snail can vary in color from nearly black to a pale yellow in color and they can grow to over four inches in diameter. This species of snail reproduces by laying clutches of eggs on emergent plants and other surfaces above the water. The eggs, which are bright pink in color, take between one to two weeks to hatch and an individual female snail will lay many clutches of eggs during the warmer months of the year.
It is believed that the population of apple snails in Langan Municipal Park Lake and Threemile Creek originated from releases of aquarium pets. By state regulation, it is unlawful to intentionally stock or release any fish, mussel, snail, crayfish or their embryos, including bait fish, into the public waters of Alabama except back into waters from which they came without written authorization from the WFF. This rule does not apply to the incidental release of bait into the water during the normal process of fishing.
ADCNR Commissioner Barnett Lawley warns of the dangers of releasing exotic animals into the wild. “The willful or accidental introduction of exotic invasive species is a growing threat to our native aquatic and marine wildlife resources and habitats.” Lawley said. “It is critical that people not release aquarium animals or plants into the waters of the state”.
The WFF consulted with the City of Mobile, other state and federal agencies, as well as non-governmental conservation organizations in developing plans to control and limit the expansion of this population of apple snails. Assistance was obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Marine Resources Division, Mobile Baykeeper and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stepped up in a big way to help us with addressing this serious threat to Alabama’s aquatic resources. The materials necessary for this effort would not have been readily available without their help,” WFF Director Corky Pugh said.
The City of Mobile has authorized the WFF to pursue snail control measures on city properties and will be taking steps to control emergent vegetation in the lake where many of the snails lay their eggs. Volunteer groups have also been enlisted to assist with the removal and destruction of snail eggs. Additional volunteers are needed as well. Anyone wanting to volunteer should contact Tammy Herrington with Mobile Baykeeper at (251) 433-4229. Volunteers with kayaks or canoes, or experience with either are especially desired. However, all types of assistance will be welcomed and appreciated.
It is not expected that this initial effort will completely eradicate the apple snails from Langan Municipal Park Lake or Threemile Creek. A long term monitoring and control program will be needed to successfully keep this species from expanding its range in Alabama and threatening other aquatic habitats.
For additional information, contact WFF Biologist Dave Armstrong at Dave.Armstrong@dcnr.alabama.gov.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.