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Snail Joins Other Spineless Invaders of the St. Louis River Estuary

Faucet snail photo by Chris J. Benson

Non-native faucet snails have taken up residence in the St. Louis River Estuary according to scientists at the Mid-Continent Ecology Division of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Duluth, Minn.

"This is a substantial range expansion for this harmful invertebrate," said Doug Jensen, Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator with the University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program. "We're asking anglers, boaters and waterfowl hunters within the estuary to be especially vigilant about cleaning their boats, waders and other gear before leaving water accesses. These tiny snails are sneaky."

Faucet snails are native to Europe. They have been in North America for over a century but were noted in Lake Superior for the first time in 2010, at the marina in Washburn, Wisc. In Minnesota, they have most notably affected Lake Winnibigoshish and surrounding lakes where their presence contributed to the death of thousands of scaup and coots. Faucet snails host intestinal parasites that wreck the internal organs of snail-eating waterbirds. When they invade, dense populations of faucet snails also crowd out native invertebrates. A team from the Duluth EPA are using the St. Louis River estuary for investigations designed to test more effective and efficient ways of detecting newly arrived non-native organisms.

Anett Trebitz, Research Ecologist at EPA, reported the presence of the non-native snail to the Minn. and Wisc. Departments of Natural Resources in late August. Taxonomists contracted by the EPA identified the snails. Aquatic invertebrate experts Kurt Schmude, University of Wisconsin-Superior, and Robert Dillon, College of Charleston in South Carolina, confirmed the finding.

"We collected the faucet snails in sweep-net samples taken in 2012," said Trebitz. "The densest colonies are near Grassy Point and Barker's Island."

Sweep-nets are typically used to collect organisms living in aquatic vegetation in shallow water - the kind of habitat faucet snails seem to prefer.

In addition to faucet snails, Trebitz reports that the EPA team continues to find the following non-native invertebrate species in the St. Louis River Estuary:

  • Cordylophora caspia (a hydrozid)
  • Dreissena polymorpha (zebra mussel)
  • Gammarus fasciatus (an amphipod)
  • Pisidium amnicum, P. henslowanum, and P. supinum (peaclams)
  • Potamopyrgus antipodarum (New Zealand mudsnail)
  • Potamothrix moldaviensis and P. vejdovskyi (aquatic worms)
  • Ripistes parasita (aquatic worm)
  • Valvata piscinalis (European valve snail)

Minnesota Sea Grant offers a Faucet Snail WATCH ID card and other invasive species identification cards. You can get these free cards at local bait stores, by calling (218) 726-6191, or by viewing and ordering them online at http://www.seagrant.umn.edu/publications/X178. Please report new infestations of aquatic invasive species to Sea Grant or a DNR Invasive Species Specialist. To learn more about the EPA's invasive species research, log on to www.epa.gov/med/tasks/task6-4a.htm.

Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!TM
What Waterfowl Hunters Can Do:

  • Inspect and remove aquatic plants, animals, and mud from waders, hip boots, boat, motor, trailer, ATVs, push poles, decoys, decoy lines and anchor before transport.
  • Drain water from bilge, motor and other water-containing devices before leaving access.
  • Dispose of unwanted live bait, worms, and fish parts in the trash.
  • Scrub soles of footwear worn in water with stiff bristled brush.
  • Cut emergent vegetation above waterline for blinds or camouflage.
  • Rinse boat and equipment with high pressure, hot water, AND/OR
  • Dry everything for five days or more before reuse.

Posted on September 25, 2014

This page last modified on September 25, 2014     © 1996 – 2020 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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