The Wisconsin Water System Has a New Invader
The New Zealand Mud Snail is Tiny, Resilient, and Multiplying
by Susan Mwai, age 17
A new invasive species has been discovered in Wisconsin’s lake system. Until 2012, New Zealand mud snails had only been found in the western United States. A lab at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point analyzed a sample of water detected at Black Earth Creek and detected the presence of snails in Wisconsin waters. There were only a few asexual clones of the snails, which helped the scientists determine that the snails were from Colorado. It is possible that they came by way of a sport fisherman.
The snail produces many offspring, which have the potential to disrupt the food chain and native fish populations. Trout eat the snails, but obtain no nutritional value from them. However, the small creature competes with the trout for the same food and resources. Since there can be hundreds of thousands of snails in one square meter, they can completely dismantle the stream’s ecosystem. Experts hope the snails will not thrive in the Midwestern climate which will at least inhibit their spread.
With trapping season approaching, there will be trappers with hip boots; a perfect place for snails to hide and catch a ride to other streams. Bob Wakeman, aquatic invasive species coordinator at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) emphasized the need for stream-goers to clean off their boots and equipment before visiting another body of water. To prevent this kind of spread, Wakeman suggests cleaning things off with a stiff wire brush, freezing boots and equipment for 6-8 hours to kill the snails, or leaving them in the sun for 24 hours to dry.
The WDNR plans to collaborate with other organizations to launch an awareness campaign to notify the public about the growing snail problem. Installing boot-washing stations is another option that is being considered. Despite these efforts, the New Zealand mud snail is likely here to stay, as the snail can survive for up to a month out of water. Experts expect it to spread rapidly through the region.
“This isn’t just some little thing we can eradicate and work on. Once we have it, we have it,” said Susan Graham, the lakes management coordinator for the WDNR.
[Sources: News-Sickle-Arrow; Wisconsin State Journal]