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Invasive Apple Snails
Breeding in South Georgia

9/13/2005

Blackshear, Georgia - Itís just the kind of tourism Georgia doesnít need. Recent surveys conducted by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) have documented breeding populations of a large, invasive species of snail native to South America. During a recent search, WRD biologists removed 79 of the channeled apple snails and 151 egg masses from a pond in Pierce County in a span of less than four hours.


A live snail found near the Alabaha River in Pierce County in early 2005 was identified as a channeled apple snail. The specimen was the first of its kind discovered in the state. Since then, live apple snails and eggs have been found in several ponds and streams in the Alabaha River system, a tributary of the Satilla River in Southeast Georgia.

These snails have a voracious appetite for aquatic plants, which many native species depend on for foraging and shelter, said WRD Wildlife Biologist Brett Albanese.

Shells of channeled apple snails can reach a width of more than two inches and a height of three inches, and are yellowish to brown in color. Channeled apple snails have established populations in at least six Florida counties, and breeding populations of the species also exist in Texas, California and Hawaii.

Initial findings of the snails in Georgia raised speculation that the specimens might have been aquarium pets released into the wild, but the subsequent discovery of a large population in a popular fishing spot may indicate otherwise.

We now suspect that these snails may have hitched a ride into Georgia on a fishing boat that had been in Florida waters, where the apple snail has also been introduced, said WRD Fisheries Technician Chad Sexton.

The discoveries were of particular interest to biologists because of the invasive nature of the species. An array of problems can arise when pet owners or fishermen introduce non-native species into Georgiaís waters. Non-native or nuisance species can be spread when anglers release live bait into the water or move between water bodies without cleaning boats and trailers.

The WRD Fisheries Management Section and the WRD Nongame Wildlife and Natural Heritage Section have been working to monitor the spread of apple snails in the Alabaha River system. They are experimenting with trapping and manually harvesting adult snails from ponds and streams and manually removing the egg masses from trees.

Although the track record for eradicating non-native species is not promising, biologists hope that they can halt or slow the spread of these snails in South Georgia, Albanese said. One reason for optimism is that we can target two life stages of the snails both the eggs and the adults for removal.

Conservation agencies nationwide are working to stop the spread of non-native aquatic plants and animals, citing concerns about the potentially harmful impact to native species.

The wrong organism in the wrong place can eat or out-compete native species, which can have serious impacts on an entire aquatic community. Invaders can also spread non-native diseases, Sexton said.

For more information about aquatic nuisance species, visit www.protectyourwaters.net or www.gofishgeorgia.com. Additional information on identifying apple snails is available at www.applesnail.net. Georgia residents who think they have found an apple snail should collect it, photograph it and provide detailed locality information to WRD Fisheries Management in Waycross at (912) 285-6094, or WRD Headquarters at (770) 918-6400. Citizens should also be on the lookout for the apple snailís bright pink eggs, which are laid on trees and shrubs above the waterline. 

 
 
 
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